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sidmis

CIC set for expansion as RTI cases mount

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sidmis

CIC set for expansion as RTI cases mount

As Reported by Manoj Mitta ,TNN, 19 Aug 2008

 

NEW DELHI: Given the manner in which RTI has caught on in less than three years, the government has decided to enlarge the Central Information Commission (CIC) adding four members to the existing five. Since the process of appointments under the transparency law has however been shrouded in secrecy, RTI activists have thrown a spanner in the works by proposing eminent persons who are willing to serve as information commissioners without taking salary, allowances or even government bungalow.

 

Their credentials to sit in judgment on RTI appeals are formidable. Jagdeep Chokkar and Trilochan Sastry are IIM professors who fought for the electoral reform that makes candidates declare their assets and criminal antecedents. Shailesh Gandhi, an engineer from IIT Bombay, is the convener of ‘‘national campaign for people's right to information'' spearheading the RTI movement. H Sudarshan, a doctor who was awarded Padma Shree for his work in rural areas, has been vigilance director with Karnataka's Lokayukta (ombudsman).

 

The ones who proposed their names in a letter to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on August 17 are no less eminent: Anna Hazare, Medha Patkar and Magsaysay awardees Arvind Kejriwal and Sandeep Pandey.

 

According to the letter, Chokkar and the other three are willing to draw a token salary of Re 1 per month - their sole motive in taking up the assignment of information commissioner being ‘‘to further the cause of transparency in governance''.

 

The unusual strategy adopted by civil society of suggesting alternative names may put pressure on the department of personnel and training (DoPT), which faced flak in 2005 when four of the five information commissioners appointed by it turned out to be ex-bureaucrats. The present babu-domination is despite a broad provision in the RTI Act that the information commissioners shall be ‘‘persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance''.

 

The RTI activists chose to address the letter to Sonia Gandhi because she is credited with pushing the historic legislation in the face of resistance from ministers and bureaucrats. Pointing out that the country has no dearth of eminent people who are willing to work selflessly as information commissioners, the August 17 letter says: ‘‘It is high time that the government stopped confining its choice to retiring bureaucrats or to people who cultivate powers that be in anticipation of getting such posts.''

 

While confirming that it has decided to enlarge CIC, the minister in charge of DoPT, Prithviraj Chavan, told TOI that the appointments were being made according to the prescribed procedure which involves a selection committee consisting of himself, the prime minister and the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha. As for the civil society's grievance about the lack of transparency in the appointments, Chavan said: ‘‘That can't be a public process.''

 

But how can appointments under RTI be secretive? ‘‘RTI does not mean that the names have to be disclosed while the process is still on,'' Chavan said. For the same reason, the minister declined to comment on the apprehension expressed by RTI activists that one of the candidates under consideration was DoPT secretary Satyananda Mishra. If that does happen, it would set a pattern as even in 2005 DoPT had appointed its then secretary, A N Tiwari, as one of the information commissioners.

 

The RTI activists on their part have written that if the government rejects the eminent persons proposed by them, then it should explain to the nation how their candidates were found less suitable than its own nominees.

 

CIC set for expansion as RTI cases mount-India-The Times of India

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Sunil Ahya

NAMES PROPOSED AS CIC MEMBERS

JAGDEEP CHOKKAR and TRILOCHAN SASTRY | Both are IIM professors who fought for electoral reforms to make candidates declare their assets and criminal antecedents

SHAILESH GANDHI |

IIT-Bombay engineer who is spearheading the RTI movement

H SUDARSHAN | Doctor awarded the Padma Shree for his work in rural areas. He has been vigilance director with Karnataka’s Lok Ayukta

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sidmis

CIC expansion: LK skips meet, wants babus out

as reported by Manoj Mitta, 23 Aug 2008, TNN

 

NEW DELHI: The government has suffered the mortification of postponing

a meeting required under the RTI Act as the leader of opposition in

Lok Sabha, L K Advani, refused to attend it unless a fresh list of

names was drawn up for the proposed expansion of the Central

Information Commission (CIC).

 

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday, Advani cited

three reasons for declining to attend the meeting that was scheduled

to take place the same evening between these two and home minister

Shivraj Patil, who constitute a committee under Section 12(3) of the

Act, to select the information commissioners proposed to be added to

the existing five in CIC.

 

Advani referred to the TOI report of August 19 stating that

"public-spirited activists who have been in the forefront of this

campaign for transparency in government have taken exception to the

fact that government's choice of information commissioners is limited

to retiring bureaucrats."

 

Advani said the objection of the activists was "justified" as the RTI

Act gave the committee "a very wide choice" by laying down that the

information commissioners shall be "persons of eminence in public life

with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology,

social service, management, journalism and mass media or

administration and governance."

 

He was also miffed at the fact that the government seemed to have sent

him the names more for information than for consultation.

 

The agenda containing the names of five nominees was sent to him just

a day before the scheduled meeting, that too without any prior

information. "In meetings of this nature where nominations for

important positions are to be decided," Advani said, "names are

invariably discussed with members of the committee informally before

they are formally placed before the committee."

 

Apart from such procedural violations, the BJP leader expressed

"serious reservations about the agenda as circulated." He wrote to the

PM that he had "communicated my reservations orally" to the home

minister.

 

Within hours of receiving his letter, Manmohan Singh replied to Advani

saying that in deference to his request, the meeting had been

postponed. The PM did not however respond to any of the issues raised

by Advani. Instead, putting the ball in Advani's court, Manmohan Singh

said, "If you have any names to suggest for appointment as information

commissioners, you may like to send them to me early."

 

It is meanwhile learnt that the five nominees of the government

include Satyananda Mishra, who is retiring shortly as secretary of the

department of personnel and training (DOPT), which is the nodal agency

of RTI. If the committee approves his name, it would set a pattern as

even in 2005, the year in which RTI was enacted and CIC was

established as an appellate authority under it, DOPT had appointed its

then secretary, A N Tiwari, as one of the information commissioners.

 

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Advani_against_babus_as_RTI_bosses/articleshow/3395029.cms

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karira

 

It is meanwhile learnt that the five nominees of the government

include Satyananda Mishra, who is retiring shortly as secretary of the

department of personnel and training (DOPT), which is the nodal agency

of RTI. If the committee approves his name, it would set a pattern as

even in 2005, the year in which RTI was enacted and CIC was

established as an appellate authority under it, DOPT had appointed its

then secretary, A N Tiwari, as one of the information commissioners.

 

 

Readers will like to note that under Mr Satyananda Mishra, DoPT (which is the Nodal Agency for RTI at the centre), has consistently refused to remove the note on its website regarding file notings- in spite of several written order from the CIC.

 

If Mr Mishra refused to accept the orders of the CIC and consistently ignored the provisions in the RTI Act, how can he be expected to be a "unbiassed" Information Commissioner ?

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vijendra singh

Such a bureocrate who disregarded the CIC & RTI Act05 intentionally & persistently must never be appointed in CIC. I do not know who created the proposed list. No beureaocrate must be appointed in CIC PM must think before calling the appoinment committee.

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Sunil Ahya

A wild thought but I feel SIC and CIC should be directly elected by the people of India.

 

In parliamentary system of election, if one contests as an individual for elections, one needs to belong to a political party to actually make a meaningful contribution to the system.

 

But I feel one can make sweeping changes and contribute dramatically to the system as an individual SIC /CIC.

 

So if there was a public election of SIC / CIC it would definetly be hotly contested, people will have a choice to elect a good individual and he will be free from all the pulls and pressures of political bosses.

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ganpat1956
A wild thought but I feel SIC and CIC should be directly elected by the people of India.

 

A wild thought ofcourse and not a workable solution for the august office of CIC/SIC

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Sunil Ahya

Dear Ganpatji,

 

I respect your opinion.

 

But if we have a system of electing the august office of CM and PM indirectly by the people of India where they have very little choice of voting directly for CM / PM but indirectly for a few political parties rather then individuals who in turn in coalition elect CM / PM , why not trust them to elect individuals then parties who give tickets to individuals.

 

It is indirectly giving a try to the presidential system of democracy, where a huge power is vested in an indivdual by the majority of the people.

 

That way we can have both parliamentary system of democracy as well as presidential system of democracy at the same time, can we not give it a try?

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shan

Their credentials to sit in judgment on RTI appeals are formidable. Jagdeep Chokkar and Trilochan Sastry are IIM professors who fought for the electoral reform that makes candidates declare their assets and criminal antecedents. Shailesh Gandhi, an engineer from IIT Bombay, is the convener of ‘‘national campaign for people's right to information'' spearheading the RTI movement. H Sudarshan, a doctor who was awarded Padma Shree for his work in rural areas, has been vigilance director with Karnataka's Lokayukta (ombudsman).

 

The ones who proposed their names in a letter to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on August 17 are no less eminent: Anna Hazare, Medha Patkar and Magsaysay awardees Arvind Kejriwal and Sandeep Pandey.

 

The proposal by the eminent people is laudable. Only people with credintials & a track record of unbiased service to the cause , with no ambition or axe of their own to grind , must be eligible.

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sidmis

Modi-baiter on info panel leaves LK fuming

as reported by Manoj Mitta,TNN 24 Aug 2008,

 

NEW DELHI: For BJP leader L K Advani, the government's proposal of appointing a Narendra Modi-baiter as information commissioner was like a red rag to a bull. Advani has protested to home minister Shivraj Patil about the inclusion of former IPS officer R B Shreekumar, who had accused the Modi administration of complicity in the Gujarat riots, among the five nominees to be appointed as information commissioners under the RTI Act.

In fact, the nomination of Shreekumar was the main reason for Advani's decision to boycott the meeting of the statutory committee, which was to be held by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 21 to select the names for the proposed expansion of the Central Information Commission (CIC).

 

Since the names of the nominees are meant to be confidential, Advani made no mention of Shreekumar in his August 21 letter to Manmohan Singh seeking a postponement of the meeting. He did however put on record that he had "serious reservations about the agenda" (which contained the names of the nominees) and that he had conveyed his objection "orally" to home minister Shivraj Patil.

 

Though his letter to the PM is couched in the principles of governance, as reported by TOI on August 23, Advani's objection to Shreekumar in his phone conversation with Patil has made it clear that the proposed expansion of CIC cannot take place unless the government drops the retired Gujarat police officer from its list of nominees.

 

From the hostility displayed by him, it is evident that Advani sees Shreekumar as an opponent of BJP rather than as a whistleblower who proved his commitment to transparency and accountability by bringing out illegal orders issued by the Modi government during the 2002 riots.

 

The injection of politics into the appointment process defeats the purpose of Section 12(3) of the RTI Act, which requires the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha to be a member of the committee to ensure non-partisan selection of information commissioners, who adjudicate appeals and complaints against public authorities.

 

The government has already shown signs of yielding to Advani's pressure to drop Shreekumar from its list of nominees. In his response to Advani's letter, Manmohan Singh wrote the same day that he was open to considering fresh names.

 

"If you have any names to suggest for appointment as information commissioners, you may like to send them to me early," PM said to Advani.

On the positive side, since Advani has also endorsed a civil society call to look beyond the pool of ex-bureaucrats, the government is learnt to be considering the possibility of including one or two of the names suggested by RTI activists

 

Modi-baiter on info panel leaves LK fuming-India-The Times of India

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Sunil Ahya
Modi-baiter on info panel leaves LK fuming

as reported by Manoj Mitta,TNN 24 Aug 2008,

 

On the positive side, since Advani has also endorsed a civil society call to look beyond the pool of ex-bureaucrats, the government is learnt to be considering the possibility of including one or two of the names suggested by RTI activists

 

Modi-baiter on info panel leaves LK fuming-India-The Times of India

 

A small / but big victory for RTI movement in our country.

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vijendra singh

Now the PM wanted Mr Advani to concur with list of appointment nominees . PM managed the list against the expressions of crores of citizens. Public & RTI workers frequently & persistently demanded in past 3 years that 6 more non-bureaucratic info commisioners from social / judiciary fields be appointed in CIC . But the GOI. proved to be uncaring of transparency spirit. DoPT must cancel this bureaucrate list ; & prepare fresh list containing names of emminent rti workers & high court retd judges only.

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ganpat1956
That way we can have both parliamentary system of democracy as well as presidential system of democracy at the same time, can we not give it a try?

abhi987,

Just ask yourself if you would be willing to have politicians in the seats of High Court & Supreme judges. CIC/SIC is a quasi judicial body at the apex level and filling it up through elected representatives is unimaginable to me. I do not want to be drawn into any discussion on the presidential system/parliamentary system, since it is beyond the scope of this thread as well as the forum .

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sidmis

Since the names of the nominees are meant to be confidential, Advani made no mention of Shreekumar in his August 21 letter to Manmohan Singh seeking a postponement of the meeting. He did however put on record that he had "serious reservations about the agenda" (which contained the names of the nominees) and that he had conveyed his objection "orally" to home minister Shivraj Patil.

 

I don't understand why the names of the Nominees are Meant to be Confidential?

Is it because of the hue & cry it will make or is it due to some statutory provisions?

 

The entire process is a Hush Hush affair for the this Govt, though nowhere it is mentioned in the act regarding the Process to be Confidential.

 

It also shows that for the PM the opinions of the Citizens do not matter at all. It would be interesting to know who's name Sh. Advani is proposing?

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prbhat_gen

since advani is a leader of opposition, he wont be in the position to dictate/negociate much with the govt.

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Sunil Ahya

I agree with Sidharth, it's a paradox that nominees and nomination process for CIC is confidential whereas the RTI Act itself has been introduced to bring about transparency.

 

A secret process to bring about transparency?

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sidmis

Advertisement necessary for selection against public posts: Allahabad HC

====================================================

Here's an analogy posted by Sh. Sundeep Jalan in

Humjanenge newsgroup.

====================================================

 

The Allahabad High Court has ruled that for holding selection against a public post, it is necessary to publish advertisement in newspapers so that all eligible candidates are able to apply for the post.

 

Non-publication of advertisement is denial of equal opportunity to all the eligible candidates in the selection process and therefore violates Article 14 and 16 of the Indian Constitution, rendering the selection in nullity.

 

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhusan and Arun Tondon dismissed a special appeal filed by Tungeshwar Nath, an employee in the office of advocate general of UP.

 

The appellant had filed the special petition against the order of the advocate general passed on July 2, by which the selection of class 4 posts, made in the year 2005 was cancelled, and also against the judgement which dismissed the writ petition challenging the order of the advocate general.

 

The division bench was of the view that if appointments in the office of advocate general are permitted to be made through a notice published on the notice board only, it will be violation of Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution.

 

UNI

 

Untitled Page

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sidmis

Govt's search for RTI chief on as Advani objects to Shreekumar

as reported by Urmi A Goswami, ET Bureau, 28 Aug, 2008

 

NEW DELHI: The UPA government’s plan to appoint ‘friendly retired bureaucrats’ as information commissioners under the RTI Act has suffered a setback. The government has decided to drop the name of former IPS officer R B Shreekumar from the list of nominees to be appointed as information commissioners.

 

BJP leader L K Advani had protested the inclusion of former IPS officer’s name in the list of nominees. As per provisions of the RTI Act, the Opposition leader is a member of the committee selecting information commissioners. The rationale behind this is to ensure non-partisan selection of information commissioners, who adjudicate appeals and complaints against public authorities. Without Mr Advani’s acquiescence, it would not have been possible for the UPA government to push through its proposal to appoint Mr R B Shreekumar as an information commissioner.

 

Mr Advani’s insistence that Mr Shreekumar’s name be dropped is being attributed to the fact that the former police officer is a known critic of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Mr Advani’s opposition can also be seen to be in line with the senior BJP leader’s suggestion to look beyond the pool of ex-bureaucrats. The senior BJP leader’s stance could also paid put to the inclusion of secretary in the department of personnel and training Satyananda Mishra. The DoPT is the nodal agency of RTI and Mr Mishra will be retiring next January.

 

In his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr Advani had said that “public-spirited activists who have been in the forefront of this campaign for transparency in government have taken exception to the fact that government’s choice of information commissioners is limited to retiring bureaucrats.”

 

Siding with the activists Mr Advani said that the objection raised were “justified” as RTI Act gave the committee “a very wide choice” by laying down that the information commissioners shall be “persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism and mass media or administration and governance.”

 

In keeping with this suggestion, the government is believed to be considering names that have been suggested by RTI activists. A list of names had been suggested by RTI activists in their letter to the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

 

These include IIM professors Jagdeep Chokkar and Trilochan Sastry, both have campaigned for the electoral reform that ensure candidates declare their assets and criminal antecedents; Shailesh Gandhi, who is the convenor of ‘national campaign for people’s right to information,” spearheading the RTI movement.

 

H Sudarshan, a doctor who was awarded Padma Shree for his work in rural areas, has been vigilance director with Karnataka’s Lokayukta. Given the confidential nature of the nominations, Mr Advani had conveyed his disagreement with the nominations orally to home minister Shivraj Patil. In his letter to the Prime Minister seeking a postponement of the meeting, Mr Advani put on record his “serious reservations” about the agenda.

 

The agenda, which contained the names of the five nominees was sent to the leader of the Opposition a day prior to the meeting. Drawing attention to this Mr Advani said, “In meetings of this nature where nominations for important positions are to be decided, names are invariably discussed with members of the committee informally before they are formally placed before the committee.”

 

Govt's search for RTI chief on as Advani objects to Shreekumar- Politics/Nation-News-The Economic Times

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vijendra singh

Haryana chief minister showed better wit by selecting 1 IAS ,2 advocates , 1 retd army genral, & 1 Birla co. man. CIC must take lesson from Haryana & select 6 ICs non-bureaucrates.

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sidmis

Campaign against ex-babus as CIC

as reported by Himanshi Dhawan,TNN 1 Sep 2008

 

NEW DELHI: Former bureaucrats and academicians have joined the campaign to lobby against bureaucrats holding positions as 'information commissioners' in the CIC.

 

The appointment of information commissioners in the CIC has been under controversy after activists demanded that the posts not be restricted to public servants.

 

In a letter to the PM, former diplomats and academicians have expressed "dissatisfaction" in the process of selection of information commissioners and demanded that the selection committee look for people from various fields instead of only public servants. The selection committee is mandated to appoint four more information commissioners to hear cases of appeals under the RTI Act.

 

Amongst those who have supported this view include Padma Bhushan winner and former Knowledge Commission vice-chairman Pushpa Bhargav, Padma Bhushan awardee and former director of National Institute of Immunology G P Talwar, ex-diplomats like A N Ram, I P Khosla, Vinod Khanna, Arun Bannerji, K P Fabian, Madhu Bhaduri, Bal Anand and K N Bakshi. Academicians like historian Romila Thapar, JNU emeritus professor Amit Bhaduri, advocates Susheel Bajaj, Prashant Bhushan, Rebecca John and Vishal Gosain have also written to the PM on the issue.

 

Campaign against ex-babus as CIC-India-The Times of India

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karira

As reported by Manoj Mitta of TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 02 September 2008:

RTI: Govt replaces Modi whistle blower with civil society nominee-India-The Times of India

 

RTI: Govt replaces Modi whistle blower with civil society nominee

 

NEW DELHI: In a balancing act, the government has replaced an officer who blew the whistle on the Narendra Modi government with a civil society nominee as one of the four new information commissioners under the RTI Act.

 

Bowing to pressure from L K Advani, who is part of the selection committee in his capacity as leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha, the government put RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi in place of former IPS officer R B Shreekumar who had blown the whistle on the Modi government in the context of the Gujarat riots.

 

The police lobby still has something to cheer about even after the rejection of Shreekumar’s candidature. For, the other three appointees include special CBI Director M L Sharma who has been on leave ever since he was overlooked for the top post in his organisation around a month ago.

 

The most controversial appointment is however of personnel secretary Satyananda Mishra, who heads the very department that administers RTI.

 

Since the existing five members of the Central Information Commission (CIC) already include his predecessor A N Tiwari, Mishra’s appointment has set a pattern of these coveted postings being cornered by successive personnel secretaries.

 

Another reason why Mishra’s appointment has raised eyebrows is his record of defying the direction of CIC to drop the claim made by his department on its website that file notings of bureaucrats and ministers could not be accessed under RTI.

 

Annapurna Dixit, widow of former NSA J N Dixit, has come as a surprise nominee as her credentials to sit in judgment on RTI appeals against various central departments are unknown. An IIT engineer turned RTI activist, Shailesh Gandhi was among the four alternative names proposed last month by civil society leaders Anna Hazare, Medha Patkar and Magsaysay awardees Arvind Kejriwal and Sandeep Pandey as part of their strategy to put pressure on the government to look beyond the pool of ex-bureaucrats while selecting information commissioners.

 

Gandhi’s appointment will create a piquant situation for the other three as he says that he will function as an information commissioner for a token salary of one rupee and not take the bungalow and other perks. Gandhi confirmed that he would stick by his undertaking of living off his own savings even as he is still awaiting the notification of his appointment.

 

“I will draw a one rupee salary and I will make my own arrangement for accommodation in Delhi,” said Gandhi, who is a resident of Mumbai.

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vijendra singh

Why only the bureaucrates & retd govt officers for the posts of I.Cs ?If more qualified & eminent persons are available, then why not their services be taken?

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Sunil Ahya

Three Cheers. If Shailesh Gandhi gets nominated for the post, we are through, and RTI ball will start rolling faster than we can imagine.

 

Media will cover the way Shailesh Gandhi delivers, and that will set an example as well as standard for other CIC/SIC's to follow.

 

I believe the best thing to happen to RTI so far. Just watch out, I can see signs of landmark happenings.

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jps50

Times of India Ahmedabad Edn 03-09-2008

 

Modi-baiter out of info panel

 

Manoj Mitta | TNN

 

New Delhi: In a balancing act, the government has replaced a Narendra Modi-baiter with a civil society nominee as one of the four new information commissioners under the RTI Act.

Bowing to pressure from LK Advani, who is part of the selection committee in his capacity as leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha, the government put RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi in place of former IPS officer RB Sreekumar who had blown the whistle on Modi government in the context of the Gujarat riots.

The police lobby still has something to cheer about even after the rejection of Sreekumar’s candidature. For, the other three appointees include special director of CBI ML Sharma who has been on leave ever since he was overlooked for the top post in his organization about a month ago.

However, the most controversial appointment is of personnel secretary Satyananda Mishra, who heads the very department that administers RTI. Since the existing five members of the Central Information Commission (CIC) already include his predecessor AN Tiwari, Mishra’s appointment has set a pattern of these coveted postings being cornered by successive personnel secretaries.

Another reason why Mishra’s appointment has raised eyebrows is his record of defying the direction of CIC to drop the claim made by his department on its website that file notings of bureaucrats and ministers could not be accessed under RTI.

Annapurna Dixit, widow of former NSA JN Dixit, has come as a surprise nominee as her credentials to sit in judgment on RTI appeals against various Central departments are unknown. An IIT engineerturned-RTI activist, Gandhi was among four names proposed.

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navdeep

It is very tough rather impossible that any of candidate so suggested by eminent citizens of India will be chosen as IC.

 

ICs are being appointed to sabotage the cause of RTI. Had RTI Act been implemented in its spirits, no. of Second Appeals would have been far less.

 

It is interesting to note that Mr. Arvind Kejriwal gave Data of penalties imposed by Central ICs so far. This Data clearly provides view point of ICs towards RTI Act 2005.

 

I can bet, Mr. Shailesh Gandhi or other persons so suggested will never get appointment as IC. Main reason is that these people will no work as per orders and will not spend Govt. Money on lavish offices, Bungalows, etc. as they are ready to work free for society.

 

Anyway, I appreciate efforts of Mr. Arvind Kejriwal and others for sending this letter.

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      The CPIO, TCIL has declined to supply a copy of a document on the ground that the same forms part of “file Noting” which, according to CPIO is exempt under the RTI Act. Appellate authority also has confirmed the decision of the CPIO. The appellant contents that he has the right to seek information contained in the “File Notings”.
      Facts
      Shri Satyapal – appellant, a resident of Delhi, applied to the CPIO, TCIL seeking for copies of certain documents by a letter dated 17th October, 2005. By a letter dated 14th November, 2005, CPIO, TCIL furnished copies of certain documents, however, stating that a particular document sought for was a file noting in the Department of Telecom and as such it was exempt from disclosure. By a letter dated 17th Nov. 2005, Shri Satyapal again wrote to the CPIO, TCIL pointing out that the information sought for by him did not fall within the ambit of Section 8 of the RTI Act and as such the same should be supplied. He also brought to the notice of CPIO, TCIL that in respect of information already furnished, a copy of a bill in respect of advertisement relating to independence day 1996 had not been supplied. By a letter dated 28th Nov. 2005, the CPIO, TCIL while furnishing a copy of the bill, once again reiterated that file notings are exempt from disclosure in terms of the clarification given by the Department of Personnel in their website. Aggrieved by this decision, Shri Satyapaul preferred an appeal to the appellate authority by a letter dated 14th Dec. 2005 stating that file notings are not exempt from disclosure in terms of Section 8 of the RTI Act. He followed up the same by letters dated 14th Dec., 31st Dec. 2005 and 5th January, 2006. The appellate authority by a letter dated 5.1.2006 rejected the appeal stating “The information sought by you pertains to the file notings of the Department of Telecommunication as also that of TCIL. I am of the view that TCIL is exempted from disclosing the information sought by you under Section 8(1)(d)&(e) of the RTI Act. UO No.7-17/95-PP dated 4.10.1995 is a part of file notings. You have mentioned in your appeal that the information has been denied misconstruing it as “file notings” by CPIO, TCIL. I confirm that these are notings in the file”. Aggrieved with the decision of the appellate authority, Shri Satyapal has filed this appeal before this Commission. According to Shri Satyapal, there is no specific exemption from disclosure as far as file notings are concerned in Section 8 of RTI Act.
      Commission’s Decision :
      It is seen that while the CPIO declined to furnish the information sought for on the ground that file notings are exempt from disclosure, the appellate authority, without confirming or rejecting the stand of CPIO that file notings are exempt from disclosure, has relied on Section 8(1)(d) and (e) of the RTI Act to deny the information.
      As is evident from the Preamble to the RTI Act, the Act has been enacted to vest with the citizens, the right of access to information under the control of public authorities in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of any public authority. Conscious of the fact that access to certain information may not be in the public interest, the Act also provides certain exemptions from disclosure. Whether file notings fall within the exempted class is the issue for consideration.
      Section 2(f) defines information as “Any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinion, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law or the time being in force”.
      Section 2(j) reads : “Right to information means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to (i) inspection of work, documents, records; (ii) taking notes, extracts or certified copies of document or records; (iii) …… (iv) …. “. In terms of Section 2(i) “Record” includes (a) any documents, manuscript and file;
      In the system of functioning of public authorities, a file is opened for every subject/matter dealt with by the public authority. While the main file would contain all the materials connected with the subject/matter, generally, each file also has what is known as note sheets, separate from but attached with the main file. Most of the discussions on the subject/matter are recorded in the note sheets and decisions are mostly based on the recording in the note sheets and even the decisions are recorded on the note sheets. These recordings are generally known as “file notings”. Therefore, no file would be complete without note sheets having “file notings”. In other words, note sheets containing “file notings” are an integral part of a file. Some times, notings are made on the main file also, which obviously would be a part of the file itself. In terms of Section 2(i), a record includes a file and in terms of Section 2(j) right to information extends to accessibility to a record. Thus, a combined reading of Sections 2(f), (i)&(j) would indicate that a citizen has the right of access to a file of which the file notings are an integral part. If the legislature had intended that “file notings” are to be exempted from disclosure, while defining a “record” or “file” it could have specifically provided so. Therefore, we are of the firm view, that, in terms of the existing provisions of the RTI Act, a citizen has the right to seek information contained in “file notings” unless the same relates to matters covered under Section 8 of the Act. Thus, the reliance of the CPIO, TCILO on the web site clarification of the Department of Personnel to deny the information on the basis that ‘file notings’ are exempted, is misplaced.
      However, it is seen from the decision of the appellate authority that he was of the view that TCIL was exempted from disclosing the information sought, under Section 8(1)(d)&(e) of RTI Act. In terms of Section 8, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen information relating to matters covered under subsections (a) to (j) of that Section. Section 8(d) exempts information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property and Sub section (e) exempts information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship. Even then, at the discretion of the competent authority even these information could be disclosed if he is of the opinion that public interest so warrants. From the decision of the appellate authority of TCIL, which is not a speaking one, it is not clear whether the file notings, a copy of which was denied to the appellant, relate to commercial confidence or trade secret or intellectual property or is available to TCIL in its fiduciary relationship.
      Direction :
      Since we have held that file notings are not, as a matter of law, exempt from disclosure, the CPIO, TCIL is directed to furnish the information contained in the file notings, on or before 15.2.2006 to the appellant. However, if the CPIO, TCIL is still of the opinion that the said file notings are exempt under Section 8(d) & (e), he is at liberty to place the file notings before the Commission on 13.2.2006 at 11 AM to determine whether the same is exempt under these sections and even if so, whether disclosure of the same would be in the public interest or not.
      Let a copy of this decision be sent to CPIO, TCIL and the appellant.


      Sd/-




      (Padma Balasubramanian)




      Information Commissioner




      Sd/-




      (Wajahat Habibullah)



      Chief Information Commissioner


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