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Govt departments interpret RTI law differently

Different Central government departments have different interpretations of the transparency law, Right To Information, when it came to disclosing information. Chetan Chauhan reports.

delhi Updated: Jan 02, 2012 21:01 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times

Different Central government departments have different interpretations of the transparency law, Right To Information, when it came to disclosing information.

While some government departments have proactively disclosed the information, others have denied similar information citing prohibitory clauses of the RTI law.

This reporter had filed a RTI application with the Cabinet Secretariat seeking copies of the minutes of the Group of Ministers and Empowered Group of Ministers constituted since June 2009. The Secretariat forwarded the application to all Central government departments to provide the information. Over 50 government departments responded to the RTI application almost four months it was filed.

Some ministries such as home affairs, urban development, law, information and broadcasting and commerce provided the copies of the minutes of the ministerial groups.

The urban development ministry provided minutes of the GoM held to decide Phase-III of the Delhi Metro within three months of the meeting with details of what the ministers had said.

The law ministry provided copies of the GoM to confer voting rights to non-resident Indians and Judicial Accountability Bill. The commerce ministry gave the minutes of the GoM on price stablisation fund scheme for coffee, tea, rubber and tobacco growers.

These are just a few welcome departments on the RTI front.

The civil aviation ministry refused to provide minutes of the GoM which took a final view on amendments on Anti-Hijacking Bill, which was introduced in Parliament in 2010.

Without specifying the clause of the RTI Act, under which the information has been denied, the ministry’s Public Information Officer Ashok Kumar said “the details of the GoM meetings and actions taken thereupon cannot be divulged being secret in nature.” The ministry gave similar reply regarding a GoM on Taj International Aviation Hub at Greater Noida, whose last meeting was held in October, 2010.

The department of administrative reforms and public grievances, which considered a report to strengthen the RTI Act, failed to provide the information sought. Instead, the department directed the applicant to visit its website to find the required information. The RTI law, however, clearly says that the information has to be provided in the format sought.

The Department of industrial policy and promotion refused to provide information regarding salt pan lands in Mumbai and its suburbs saying providing such information will “prejudicially affect the economic interest of the state”. The department citied section 8 1 (a) of the RTI act for denying the information.

The ministry of finance provided details of the decision taken at a GoM on price of sale of shares of Central Public Sector Enterprises but refused to give the minutes citing section 8 of the RTI Act, which says the information cannot be provided unless the decision is completed.

First Published: Jan 02, 2012 21:00 IST