The Central Information Commission (CIC) is escalating its dispute with the government over disclosure of internal file notings and will be informing the vice-president of India that the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had misrepresented to the Rajya Sabha that the Right to Information Act did not require it to share this information.
Giving its decision on an RTI application filed by Naresh Chaturvedi, an officer of West Bengal cadre of the Indian Administrative Service, the Commission said that the DoPT’s “response to the unstarred question 3890 in the Rajya Sabha submitted to Parliament is not in accordance with the RTI Act 2005.”
Experts on RTI at the Commission were of the view that the CIC would definitely impose a penalty on the DoPT if it does not comply with the order. The government has been resisting disclosing the notings, made by various officials, in the process of decision making. These are normally remarks specific to the case.
Earlier, in May, the DoPT, answering a question in the Rajya Sabha, had justified a notice put up on the ministry’s website which stated that “file notings” do not come under the definition of “information” under the RTI Act.
“The Act does not specifically provide for disclosure of file notings. The position taken on the website is in accordance with the legislative intent,” the DoPT had said. Interestingly, the commission functions under the administrative control of the DoPT. The RTI applicant, Chaturvedi, seeking details of correspondence between the Central Vigilance Commission and the DoPT, had also sought copies of notings on the files in which the correspondence had taken place. In its decision, apart from asking chief principal information officer of DoPT to make available the file notings sought by Chaturvedi within 10 working days of the date of issue of the decision, the CIC also said that a copy would be sent to the vice-president of India.
When contacted, chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah explained the rationale for this: “We are merely bringing to the notice of the vice-president, in his capacity as the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, our view on the matter.”