IN WHAT could impact RTI replies in coming days, the government has advised its public information officers not to “create information”, “interpret information”, “solve problems raised by applicants” or “furnish replies to hypothetical questions”. In a letter dated
September 16, 2011, the department of personnel and training (DoPT) drew attention of a Guide on the Right to Information Act, 2005 whereby it says: “Only such information can be supplied under the Act which already exists and is held by the public authority or held under the control of the public authority”.
The RTI which till recently was packaged as a major milestone of the UPA government in bringing transparency into the system, has begun to trouble the UPA. The recent finance ministry note on P Chidambaram’s role in 2G spectrum auction was procured from the Prime Minister’s Office through an RTI application. In many offices, a number of employees are dealing only with RTI applications, many of which are filed for personal reasons and not for public good.
The government’s recent letter on how to deal with RTI applications came as a sequel to the observation made by the Supreme Court in a case between Central Board of Secondary Education and Aditya Bandopadhaya and others (civil appeal no 6454 of 2011). The Supreme Court’s observation is as follows:
“At this juncture it is necessary to clear some misconceptions about the RTI Act. The RTI Act provides access to all information that is available and existing….But where the information sought is not a part of the record of a public authority, and where such information is not required to be maintained under any law or rules or regulations of the public authority, the Act does not cast any obligation upon the public authority, to collect and collate such non-available information and then furnish it to an applicant. A public authority is also not required to furnish information which require drawing of inferences and/or making of assumption. It is not required to provide “advice” or “opinion” to an applicant, nor required to obtain and furnish any “opinion” or “advice” to an applicant. The reference to “opinion” or “advice” in the definition of “information” in section 2(f) of the Act, only refers to such material available in the records of the public authority. Many public authorities have, as a public relation exercise, provide advice, guidance and opinion to its citizens. But that is purely voluntary and should not be confused with any obligation under the RTI Act.”
Action and Appointments
a) The government has approved inter-cadre deputation of Ms Indra Mallo Jain, a 1999 batchb) The Appointment Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) rejected the proposal for extension of inter-cadre deputation of Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, a 1988 batch Uttarakhand cadre IAS from Uttarakhand to
Maharashtra cadre IAS from Maharashtra cadre to AGMUT cadre (Arunachal Pradesh) for a period of five years.