Monthly Archives: May 2013

Public Interest and Private Interest under RTI Act

Public Interest

Public Interest and Private Interest under RTI Act

Frequently under Right to Information Act 2005, Public Authorities have been exempting information in narrower interpretation of the term Public Interest within the RTI Act 2005. Itself the definition of Public Interest is vague and RTI Act 2005 amplifies by stating “Larger Public Interest”. Refer Section 8 e and 8 j of RTI Act. According to one of the dictionary Public Interest is defined as :

“Welfare of the general public (in contrast to the selfish interest of a person, group, or firm) in which the whole society has a stake and which warrants recognition, promotion, and protection by the government and its agencies.”

Despite the vagueness of the term, public interest is claimed generally by governments in matters of state secrecy and confidentiality. Thus it is approximated by comparing expected gains and potential costs or losses associated with a decision, policy,program, or project and is fairly left for the discretion of Public Authority to interpret

“ satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.” RTI Act Section 8 j

Does it mean that Public Interest is the sum of individual interests? Is the public interest, then, that what is sought by the majority? Should the perspective used in defining the public interest be purely numerical? Can the term “public interest” include the protection of certain “higher” objective values? Can those values then be protected even against the will of the majority? If so, who should define and protect the public interest in a democratic form of government? In a democracy, policy decisions are formed based on the principle of majority, i.e. by voting procedure. A majority decision (e.g. a law or constitutional law) is a sum of individual interests, or the result of compromises reconciling individual interests; the main mediators of these interests are political parties. Is a majority interest also a public interest? – Taken from the Research Paper here!

However, the fact of the matter is that.. Read more ›

Service book of Government Employee can be disclosed under RTI

Service book of Government Employee

The Service book of Government employee can be disclosed under Right to Information Act 2005

With the recent decision of Central Information Commission Service book of Government Employee can be disclosed under Right to Information Act 2005. This means a third party can have access to most of the information about the employee career including disciplinary action, his leave, place of posting etc.

A Service book of Government Employee  is maintained for every employee from the date of his first appointment. Every step in official life is recorded in it. All the pensionary benefits are sanctioned mainly on the basis of entries in the Service Book. Hence, it plays a prominent role in timely settlement of pension cases and proper maintenance of Service Book eliminate delay in sanctioning and payment of pensionary benefits.

The Service book of Government Employee consists of 2 volumes.
VOLUME-I: Volume I of the Service Book is meant for recording the bio-data of the employees and various events of his service.
VOLUME-II: The purpose of Volume-II of the Service Book is to place different types of nominees, declarations, pay fixation memos etc.

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You can have access to information of one Ministry by applying to another Ministry

Access to Information under RTI

Access to Information from other Ministry

Access to Information from one Government organisation is a simple step process. But can you access information of one Ministry from another? The Answer is ‘Yes’.

Government Ministries frequently refer the matter to other Ministries either for specialised inputs or for seeking approvals. Other times it is mandatory for a Government Department/ Ministry to forward the file to other Ministry. For example a file meant to creation of Posts is referred to DoPT and Ministry of Finance for seeking inputs and then for approvals.

Similarly an Expenditure Finance Commission (EFC) proposal is sent to various ministries for consultation before it is put up before the Cabinet for approval. In most of the cases the whole documents are forwarded to other Ministries and sometimes it is the self contained note. If the Single File System is followed, then invariably the whole file is sent.

Whatever be the case, it is for sure that other Ministries keep the Internal file for the Inter-Ministerial consultation and / or create shadow file. In a regular Ministry, once a file is received, the receiving Ministry create an Internal file and bring most of the facts into it. Once it is approved, the decision to it is conveyed in the original file stating the decision and that it has been approved by the competent authority.

Similarly, most of the contracts and issues involving legal vetting, the whole file is sent to Department of Legal Affairs (DLA) for opinion. Most of the time, the DLA keeps a shadow file and copy of the advise given.

Therefore, all such cases where Inter-Ministerial consultation and referencing has been done, there are both Internal file corresponding to the main file and also a shadow file of the main file. In such cases the question arises, can one have access to information relating to other Ministry?

There is a very informative post available on our discussion forum here regarding this subject. The decision of High Court has been produced in this reference there, which is quoted as below: Read more ›