Section 4 (1) (a) provides as under:-
“Every Public Authority shall maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerized are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerized and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated”.
However, there are two catches in the Section. First is ‘subject to the availability of resources’ and second is ‘reasonable time’. The Public Authorities avoids the obligation under the Section on the pretext of non-availability of resources. Further ‘reasonable time’ is also a vague expression. Therefore, S 4(1) (a) is required to amended make it obligatory for every public authority to maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information. For this specific time must be prescribed, otherwise no Public Authority is going to take action in this regard. For this, pressure is required to be build up on the Law makers.
However, till the Act is not amended, we all the members of this great forum should file applications under the RTI Act with the different Public Authorities to intimate as to what actions have been taken by them to implement this provision of the Act. If no action has been taken, the reasons under S.4 (1) (d) should be requested. This will atleast create some pressure on the Public Authorities.
As reported by Himanshi Dhawan of TNN in The Times of India, New Delhi, Aug 28 2009.
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PMO Has 28,685 Secret Files; Hasn’t Opened Even 1 To Public This Yr
What steps does the government follow while deciding to declassify its old secret documents? You may never get to know since the manual that details the declassification process in the country is itself marked confidential. Meanwhile, the PMO has admitted it has 28,685 secret files but has not declassified any this year.
The Indian government’s arbitrariness and complete lack of transparency regarding classified material is in sharp contrast to the international practice of making secret files public after 25-30 years. Some countries declassify their documents after just 10 years.
While the government says it makes files public after 25 years, the policy remains largely on paper. In response to an RTI query, the
PMO said it had declassified 37 files in 2007, 25 files in 2008 and none in 2009.
However, even these declassified records cannot be accessed by a bonafide researcher, let alone an ordinary citizen, as the material continues to be housed in the PMO and has so far not been transferred to the NAI.
‘‘If the records continue to be held by PMO, there can be no access to such material. Proper and time-bound declassification is in national interest,’’ said Anuj Dhar from endthesecrecy.com. Dhar, along with Chandrachur Ghose, has been campaigning for transparency in administration through regular declassification of records.
Only three files declassified by PMO in 2 years
New Delhi: PMO has admitted it has 28,685 secret files but has not declassified any this year. Chandrachur Ghose campaigning for transparency in administration through regular declassification of records had filed the RTI application seeking information on the government’s declassification policy. In response, the PMO said, ‘‘Declassification of files is done as per the manual of departmental security instructions issued by the ministry of home affairs. The ministry has marked this manual as confidential and has declined to provide it.’’
The Public Record Rules, 1997, state that records that are 25 years or more must be preserved in the NAI and that no records can be destroyed without being recorded or reviewed. On paper, it’s mandatory for each department to prepare a half-yearly report on reviewing and weeding of records and submit it to the NAI. The rules also stipulate that no public records which are more than 25 years old can be destroyed by any agency unless it is appraised.
RTI activists, however, complain that these rules are rarely followed. While the PMO says the declassification process is ‘‘continuous’’, its response on the number of files that have been declassified inspires little confidence. Only one file was declassified in 2005 and two in 2006.
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative programme coordinator Venkatesh Nayak, who had also filed a RTI asking for the manual of departmental security instructions, was denied the information as well. The matter is at present before CIC.