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As reported by TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 15 November 2009:

Villagers, activists up in arms over proposed RTI changes - Delhi - City - The Times of India


Villagers, activists up in arms over proposed RTI changes


NEW DELHI: Kheema Ram, a 40-year-old farmer from Rajasthan who exposed a number of corrupt practices through his more than 350 RTI applications

is against any amendments in the Act. Ram, hailing from Rajsamund district, travelled all the way to Delhi along with fellow villagers on Saturday to protest against the proposed amendments in the RTI Act which may take out some categories of information from the Act's ambit.


"The discussed amendments will take out the 'Atma' of the act. We will be at the mercy of the public information officer for extracting even the most relevant information. They can reject our applications, saying its `frivolous', if the changes materialise,'' he said.


Ram's views find resonance among a cross section of intellectuals, social workers, politicians, farmers and RTI activists. Opposing the proposal to "weaken'' the Act, people from 10 states across the country gathered at Jantar Mantar on Saturday for a day long dharna.


Several civil society groups and organisations, individuals and users of the RTI Act assembled at the dharna organised by the National Campaign for People's Right to Information. Amongst those present were information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, social activist Aruna Roy, economist Jean Dreze, CPI General Secretary D Raja, RTI activist Shekhar Singh, renowned theatre personality Tripurari Sharma, Nikhil Dey and Swami Agnivesh of the Bandhwa Mukti Morcha. A collective demand was made to not amend the Act but to implement it properly.


Magsaysay award winner Aruna Roy, who played a crucial role in shaping the RTI movement in the country, lamented that instead of ensuring better implementation in crucial areas like proactive disclosure, the government is now looking to enfeeble the Act.


"The act has proved itself among the masses and people have benefited from it. It is wrong to suggest changes in it at this stage. The effort should be to ensure its full implementation in letter and spirit,'' Roy said.


Another RTI doyen Shekhar Singh said the manner in which these changes have been put forward has raised concern among people who are using it. "Government had spent Rs 70 lakh for a study by a private body. The report does not even say vexatious or frivolous applications are a problem for the system. Information commissioners from across the country have also opposed any changes in the Act,'' Singh said, wondering why there is talk of amendments.


RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra said it is too early to bring any changes in the Act. "The proposed changes will give powers to the public information officers to reject applications if they feel it is vexatious or frivolous. It will leave scope for misuse," he said.


Later, a representative delegation of 7 members, led by Aruna Roy and Shekhar Singh, went to meet the DoPT secretary Shantanu Consul to discuss the current proposal regarding the amendments. The secretary confirmed that a set of amendments are under consideration, but before they are approved, the DoPT will follow a transparent and open consultative process. All further proposals for amending the law will be put up on the DoPT website and affected parties and stakeholders will be consulted before the government considers any amendments to the law. The secretary further assured the group that the minutes of the meetings held with the information commissioners in October 2009 will also be made available on the DoPT website soon.

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As reported by Malini Nair in dnaindia.com on 15 November 2009:

Don't undermine RTI: Activists - dnaindia.com


Don't undermine RTI: Activists


Delhi: In the run-up to the assembly elections in Jharkhand later this month, a group of activists have been drawing up a report card of the sitting MLAs there. Among other things they have been seeking innocuous details about their attendance in the assembly. There is only one stock answer they have been getting to such questions: this is a vexatious question.


"We are constantly being accused of trying to defame or blackmail officials by demanding answers to questions that are perfectly valid under the RTI Act," says Anjali Bharadwaj, director of Society for Citizens' Vigilance Initiative, a group that drew up such performance reports of MPs before the Lok Sabha elections.


If the recent amendments proposed to the RTI Act comes through, activists like Bharadwaj will have an even tougher time ferreting information from officialdom. It is to preempt this move that RTI activists from across the country held a protest meeting in the capital today.


RTI groups from Delhi, UP, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have banded together under the NCPRI to generate greater awareness among people about the dangers of diluting the act. There are two areas in the proposed amendment that really bother them: the move to disallow vexatious questions and to keep under cover the file notings.


"How do you define vexatious or frivolous? To a senior bureaucrat who earns Rs 50,000 a month a daily wager's demand to know to where his Rs200 went seems frivolous. But to the poor man it is life and death," says activist Shekhar Singh who, along with Aruna Roy of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan led a survey across 11 states on the RTI.


Senior bureaucrats and ministers, he says, are most resistant to share information. "Their travel bills, records -- how dare these be questioned, is what irks them the most," he says.


Magasaysay Award winner Aruna Roy says this desire to curb the right is not new. The case against amendments is clear: why look for changes when the existing act hasn't been implemented according to law? "It's like asking for a new dress without trying on the one you have. How will you know what fits?" says Roy.

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Bureocrates importance lies in hiding the truth under the garb of secrecy and exemptions from discloser of information.ever since RTI act they are feeling insecure and therefire all these amendments to reduce the rti act like all other acts as mere a piece of paper. thwarting the ill design of amendments is needed.


rajinder yadav

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Hi All,

What can we do to prevent Governement of India from bringing these amendments to RTI Act 2005.




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As reported by Krishnadas Rajagopal in indianexpress.com on 17 November 2009:

Public debate to precede amendments to RTI: Chavan


Public debate to precede amendments to RTI: Chavan


Department of Personnel and Training Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Monday assured RTI activists of initiating a public debate before going ahead with amendments to the Right to Information Act.


Allaying widespread fears among the public, the minister at a late evening meeting with a delegation of RTI activists said the amendments would not be used to emasculate the transparency law which has since its inception in 2005 given citizens across the country a liberal peek into government functioning.


Though Chavan obviously did not deny the department’s intentions to go ahead with the amendments, he added that as of now no Bill had formally been drafted on the proposed changes in the Act.


The minister said that the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) would shortly bring out a “Position Paper” on the proposed amendments, which would be posted on the department’s official website.


“The minister gave us assurance that no action will be taken to amend the Act without first consulting the public,” said Shekhar Singh, one of the members of the delegation. “He (Chavan) said the public can log in and be free to post their suggestions on the amendments and this will be duly considered by the DoPT.”


The delegation included prominent social activist Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Commodore (retd) Lokesh Batra.

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As reported by Krishnadas Rajagopal in indianexpress.com on 17 November 2009:

Public debate to precede amendments to RTI: Chavan


Public debate to precede amendments to RTI: Chavan



Allaying widespread fears among the public, the minister at a late evening meeting with a delegation of RTI activists said the amendments would not be used to emasculate the transparency law which has since its inception in 2005 given citizens across the country a liberal peek into government functioning.





“............... “He (Chavan) said the public can log in and be free to post their suggestions on the amendments and this will be duly considered by the DoPT.”



A liberal peek allowed with a black glasses in a dark Room


certainly we have had experience with 'file notings, how neatly the Dopt considered

RK Bheri

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Upon the implementation of the RTI Act 2005 and its relevant provisons, the citizens have a right to know at least a part of the information by which, we are governed. We are seeing the attitude of the different Department/Agences, which are seeking exemptions from the purview of RTI Act 2005, thus diminishing the accountability as a whole. We only request that the proposed amendments should not render the RTI Act as an ornamental piece and a paper tiger.



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Responsibility of the parliament is put forward the legisilation to strengthen the democracy. Here it looks like oppposit is happening, Govt. is trying to bury transparency under bureaucracy.


As this matter will effect every ordinary indian citizen, who is already very deeply angry and unhappy from from bureaucracy and corruption.


Any attempt to dilute RTI act will be suicidal for this govt. Indian public never going to forgive for any such attempt.


So Mr. ManMohan Singh and Party give respect to public opinion on this very issue.

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The legislature has already enacted the RTI Act. This RTI act is for People and we citizens are not having any dis satisfaction with it as on moment. And we are having reserved opinions on the way it is being implemented.

The Act naturally taken the government into enormous consideration and powered the government in implementing and for fixing the nominal application fees and costs of information etc

Main failure is that the Panels of Three is not giving weightage and /or understanding the sections 12 (5) and sec 15 (5) . One can not believe The Panels of three are either not understanding it but deliberately due to one reason or other is choosing the persons from service or retired from service (and recommending them for the posts of ICs/CIC. (central or and State). And also some political figures/ Party sympathizers. These appointed people Many does not have reasoning powers and the zeal and commitment and concern of RTI act. and on one reason or other ,diluting the RTI act and giving the advantage To PIOs 1st AAs and Public Authorities. with distorted interpretations of the act .

The painful of this is these ICs/CIC. (central or and State). Are doing this intentionally cheating the ACT and citizens.

The Govt and leaders are forgetting that this act has emerged to contain corruption . This corruption is with in the Pas , officers and govt servents. With the same mindset of a bureaucrates can not set right the bureaucracy from the corruption which is within

So, the govt should not employ any person served or serving in any bureaucracy

Only from people ( other than bureaucrates ) and positively from Judiciary are to be appointed as ics/cic (central and state).

When proper persons are appointed for the Posts of ICs and CIC (state or Central) then only we can expect RESULTS.

RK Bheri

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As reported by PTI in hindustantimes.com on 10 December 2009:

Govt to decide on amending RTI after consulting experts- Hindustan Times


Govt to decide on amending RTI after consulting experts


Government will decide on amending the Right to Information (RTI) Act only after consulting civil society organisations and experts, the Rajya Sabha was informed today.


Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Prithviraj Chavan said during Question Hour that there was a proposal to strengthen RTI by suitably amending the laws to provide for disclosure by government in all non-strategic areas.


"The Government is examining a proposal for incorporation of provisions in the RTI Act regarding constitution of benches of the information commission and rejection of vexatious and frivolous applications," he said.


The amendment would be done with a view to expanding the scope of RTI and withdrawing exemptions given to some agencies.


It would, however, not be carried out before consultations with NGOs, civil society organisations, experts and information commissioners, he said.


If the strengthening of RTI can be carried out without amending the law, it would be done, he said.


There were apprehensions in the Supreme Court as to whether RTI law will hamper its work, he said. "We will examine this issue very carefully."


Vexatious and frivolous applications would be defined and it would be ensured that "no public authority denies information" on these counts.

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As reported by PTI in hindustantimes.com on 10 December 2009:

Govt to decide on amending RTI after consulting experts- Hindustan Times


Govt to decide on amending RTI after consulting experts


Vexatious and frivolous applications would be defined and it would be ensured that "no public authority denies information" on these counts.


The most dangerous proposition. Once the Act is amended to reject "defined" vexatious and frivolous applications it will reduce to a paper tiger with removed jaws and claws.

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So The Time is nearing by for a 'REAL Show down'.

It will be in the fitness of things, if the govt. declares a platform on which the suggetions and proposed amendments to be kept and discussed openly.


RK Bheri

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An article by Aruna Roy at tehelka.com on 11 December 2009


A Dangerous Move

Amending the Right to Information Act would be a retrograde step




BEFORE ANY debate starts, we must remind ourselves that India has a tendency of corruption. India, though a democracy, has a history of reported corruption cases. While the Chief Justice of India, KG Balakrishnan, has demanded that PM Manmohan Singh amend the RTI Act to ‘protect’ the judiciary from ‘intrusive’ queries, what needs to be kept in mind is that the proposed amendments will totally defeat the purpose of an RTI Act.

Illustration: ANAND NAOREM
The proposed amendments include introducing an exemption for so-called ‘vexatious and frivolous’ applications, and excluding from the purview of the RTI Act access to ‘file notings’ and decision-making processes, this time by excluding ‘discussions or consultations that take place before arriving at a decision’. Two contemporary nation-wide studies, one done under the aegis of the Government of India and the other by people’s organisations (RTI Assessment and Accountability Group and the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information), have both concluded that the main constraints faced by the government in providing information are inadequate implementation, the lack of training for staff and poor record management. They have also identified the lack of awareness and harassment of the applicants as two major constraints that prevent citizens from exercising their right to information. Despite interviewing thousands of Public Information Officers, neither study concluded that frivolous or vexatious applications were frequent enough to pose a threat to governance or to the RTI regime in general.

It is strongly believed that it is impossible to come up with definitions of ‘vexatious’ and ‘frivolous’ that are not completely subjective and, consequently, prone to rampant misuse by officials. Would it be fair to judge a decision (or the decision maker) without knowing why such a decision was taken and what facts and arguments were advanced in its favour and what against? Can one hold a government (or an official) accountable, on the basis of what they did or did not do without knowing the reasons for their action or inaction? Moreover, it’s too early to propose changes to an Act which hasn’t even been fully implemented. Section 4, which states that all public authorities are supposed to duly catalogue, index and publish their records, is yet to be implemented.

The government must initiate public debate to strengthen the Act, rather than amending it
We, the people of India, already directly or indirectly know the decisions of the government, for we are the ones who bear the consequences. What the RTI Act facilitated was a right to know who took those decisions and the reasons why the decisions were taken. Our right to information is part of the bedrock of democracy. It cannot be separated or diluted without denying us our fundamental rights.

It is significant that even among Information Commissioners from across India, whom the government recently “consulted”, the overwhelming consensus was against any amendment to the RTI Act at this stage.

The government, therefore, should abandon this ill-advised push to amend the Act. Instead, it should initiate a public debate on the problems that it might be facing in implementing the Act. It is only through such a public debate that a lasting and credible way can be found to strengthen the RTI regime.

At a time when there is a popular consensus to strengthen it through rules and better implementation, an amendment in the Act would be an obviously retrograde step. The fear is that political pressures influence our PM. A decision on this issue should be taken after careful consideration. If the wrong decision is taken, severe criticism is bound to follow. We strongly urge that an unequivocal decision be taken to refrain from amending the RTI Act.

Roy is a social activist based in Rajasthan


Source: http://www.tehelka.com/story_main43.asp?filename=Ne191209proscons.asp

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Through this Hon'ble forum we expect that the proposed amendments in the RTI Act 2005 should not render the powerful act as a paper tiger only. The general public can assess the helps rendered by the RTI Act 2005 since its implementation in its right perspective. To a certain extent the act has immensely helped to contain corruption in the pubic offices and the P.As felt a sense of accountability. Through the provisoins of this Act ony the the Hon'ble judges compelled to divulge the information pertaining to their assest, though it s a tip of an iceberge.


Before amending the Act, there should be a public debate on the issue. The opinion inserted by Hon'ble author is very apt at this juncture. Let our honourable members debate on this issue and post opinion in this regard.



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As reported by Rakesh Bhatnagar in dnaindia.com on 13 December 2009:

Government set to 'strengthen' RTI Act - dnaindia.com


Government set to 'strengthen' RTI Act


New Delhi: The Centre is all set to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act to "strengthen it", but activists are apprehensive.


The ministry for personnel, public grievances and pensions, which heads the all-powerful department of personnel and training in charge of bureaucracy, said all stake-holders would be consulted before the Act is touched.


The government wants a suitable amendment to the Act to provide for disclosure in all "non-strategic areas". It is also examining a proposal to incorporate provisions regarding constitution of benches of the information commission and rejection of vexatious and frivolous applications.


On Chief Justice of India (CJI) KG Balakrishnan's concern that the globally-lauded law hampers certain areas of work, such as appointment of judges through the Supreme Court (SC) collegium, a matter pending before SC, the ministry said the issue will be examined carefully.


However, the government would also determine what constitutes vexatious and frivolous applications, a key area where certain rights of anxious applicants could be curbed.


Prime minister Manmohan Singh, law minister M Veerappa Moily and the chief election commissioner have held a few meetings to discuss the concerns of the bureaucracy, judiciary and the home department.


CJI Balakrishnan recently urged the prime minister to protect the judiciary from increasingly "intrusive" queries under RTI.


He said the SC collegium made judicial appointments on the basis of constitution bench judgments. CJI is aggrieved by the chief information commissioner's (CIC's) direction to disclose why three meritorious chief justices of high courts were not elevated to SC, and why other three judges were appointed.


The government is also grumbling at CIC's observation that the notings on cabinet files were open to public scrutiny.


A panel set up by CIC says the predominance of bureaucracy, such as former IAS and IPS officers, in state information commissions set up under the RTI Act is "hampering" the functioning of such quasi-judicial bodies.


It says bureaucrats remain "sympathetic" to defiant public information officers of different government departments and liberally give them opportunities to "correct mistakes" even when the mistakes are in the form of denial of information to the needy with mala fide intentions.

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As reported by PTI in dnaindia.com on 13 December 2009:

UPA will not dilute Right to information Act: Prithviraj Chavan - dnaindia.com

UPA will not dilute Right to information Act: Prithviraj Chavan


Allahabad: The UPA is fully committed to ensuring transparency in governance and the proposed amendments in the Right to Information Act are in no way aimed at diluting it, Union minister Prithviraj Chavan said here today.


"The proposed amendments in the RTI are aimed at removing certain legal shortcomings and would in no way render it ineffective. We are working on certain recommendations from the Administrative Reforms Commission with additional inputs from private organisations and NGOs.


"People must not fear that their right to information would be curtailed," the minister of state for public grievances told reporters on the sidelines of a function.


Chavan said the government is, "in fact, of the view that all matters of governance other than those relating to national security and hence deserving confidentiality should be made available on respective websites so that people can get the information required by them without even undergoing the cumbersome process of filing an RTI application".


Moreover, the UPA will never forget that RTI has been one of its main achievements and has done a lot to enhance its credibility among the common people of the country," he said.


Chavan was in Jhalwa, on the outskirts of the city, to address the concluding session of a function organised by the Indian Institute for Information Technology-Allahabad.


Speaking at 'Science Conclave', Chavan said improving the quality of education in basic sciences is vital to the progress of the country.


"The UPA government had last year doubled the expenditure on science and technology in recognition of its vital role in economic progress," he said.


"This would, however, not yield desired results unless we have a pool of talent that can adequately cater to the needs of the country," Chavan said, adding that to achieve this, efforts are being made to provide impetus to science education.


The minister expressed concern over the fact that "our youth, lured away by more lucrative options like engineering and finance, does not seem to be sufficiently interested in basic sciences".


"We are trying to change this with the help of schemes like INSPIRE, in which brightest young minds from across the country are picked up and given an opportunity to interact with top scientists who would introduce them to the wonder and joys of science," he said.


Replying to a question, Chavan said "the UPA government was doing everything possible to improve the state of higher education in Uttar Pradesh. The grant for BHU has been hiked recently.


Under the INSPIRE programme, 600 students have been picked up from this state alone, the minister said.

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As reported in moneylife.in on 01 February 2010:



Information Commissioners don’t want amendment to RTI Act


Two amendments out of seven proposed by DoPT receive an okay from Information Commissioners


Information commissioners (ICs) across the country have said that that no amendments were necessary to the Right to Information (RTI) Act.


In a bid to strengthen the RTI Act, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had called a meeting for consultation with around 60 central and state ICs across the country on 14 October 2009. However, the ICs received the minutes of the meeting only after three months.


During the meeting, all ICs pointed out that the decision of what constitutes ‘vexatious’ or ‘frivolous’ would have to be left to the personal information officers (PIOs). This would result in large-scale rejections by PIOs and would go against the present principle that no purpose needs to be given by applicants.


The DoPT outlined seven amendments. The ICs almost unanimously pointed out that the first five points needed no amendments.


Here are the seven proposals, out of which five needed no amendments and two which would dilute the RTI Act and would need an amendment to the Act:


1) Constitution of benches: DoPT held that the present constitution of benches, where cases are heard by a single Information Commissioner is not legal. The Commissioners pointed out that this was not the correct position, and the Central Information Commission had already ruled on this matter. Even if the DoPT’s argument was accepted, only a change of rules would be required. DoPT was proposing that all benches should be two-member benches, which would increase the expenditure per case by nearly 100%, and most Commissions would be overwhelmed by the cases, since they would not be able to cope with the same.


2) Removal of nine exempted public authorities from the list in Schedule (2): There is no need for an amendment, as a few public authorities have already been included and deleted through a notification as per Section 24(2) of the RTI Act.


3) Include Citizens Charter in Section 4 declarations of each public authority: Here again, there is no need to amend, as it can be included under Sec 4(1)(b)(xvii), which says, ‘Such other information as may be prescribed’.


4) Defining what is meant by ‘substantially financed’ under 2(h)(d)(ii): This is already being judicially defined by Information Commissioners.


5) Facilitate Indians abroad to use RTI Act through embassies: This can be done very easily by making appropriate rules.


The two proposals which needed an amendment to the Act proposed by DoPT are as under:


6) Adding ‘frivolous & vexatious requests’ to the list of Section 8 exemptions: Commissioners pointed out that the decision of what constitutes ‘vexatious’ or ‘frivolous’ would have to be left to the PIOs.


This would result in large-scale rejections by PIOs and would go against the present principle that no purpose needs to be given by applicants. Most Commissioners spoke against such an amendment, while two stated that it was necessary.


7) Excluding discussions/consultations that take place before arriving at governmental decisions; in other words, exclusion of file-notings, which would render the working of the government completely opaque to citizens. This would mean that citizens will know the reasons for taking decisions only after the decisions have been taken and never know why certain decisions in their benefit were not taken.


All the ICs gave their verdict that for the first five objectives there was no need to amend the RTI Act. On point (6) two Commissioners spoke in favour of amending the Act to prevent frivolous and vexatious RTI queries, whereas over half a dozen opposed these. On point (7) also the Commissioners expressed a clear view that no amendment was desirable. Some Commissioners pointed out that any change in the RTI Act would lead to unnecessary confusion in implementation and in the minds of citizens and PIOs.

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As reported by Vidya Subrahmaniam in thehindu.com on 02 february 2010:



Angry Information Commissioner releases minutes of RTI meeting on Act amendments




Government seems disrespectful in treating October meeting as a non-event: Shailesh Gandhi




At meeting, majority of 60-odd Commissioners vetoed amendments proposed by DoPT


Meeting concluded on understanding that DoPT would forward minutes to the Commissioners





NEW DELHI: The minutes of the stormy October 14, 2009 meeting between Central and State Information Commissioners and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on the controversial issue of amendments to the Right To Information Act, 2005 are now available for the common citizen to see.


Among other things, the DOPT proposed amendments to exclude from the Act “frivolous and vexatious” complaints as well as “discussions/consultations” (previously known as file notings) preceding a government decision.


Curiously, the minutes were released on Monday, not by the Union Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension of which the DoPT is a part but by Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi. Mr. Gandhi resorted to the extreme step after being repeatedly fobbed off by the DoPT on the release of the minutes.


The October 14 meeting concluded on the understanding that the DoPT would forward the recorded minutes to the Information Commissioners (ICs). At the meeting, the majority of the 60-odd ICs entirely vetoed the idea of amendments, and only two officers agreed on the need to exclude “frivolous and vexatious” complaints.


Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Gandhi said the minutes formed an important part of the record on the proposed amendments. In the event that the government went ahead with the amendments, the minutes would prove that it had done so by overruling the ICs. Mr. Gandhi said he and another IC, Satyanand Mishra, sent several reminders to the DoPT to no avail.


Ten days ago, he wrote an e-mail to Shantanu Consul, Secretary of the DoPT, in which Mr. Gandhi told him that it was disrespectful to the institution of ICs if a meeting with “over 50 per cent of Information Commissioners across the country” was treated so casually.


“I told him that the Government seemed to want to treat the meeting as a non-event,” Mr. Gandhi said.


When even this step did not produce the desired result, he went ahead and released his own recorded minutes of the meeting.


Mr. Gandhi’s minutes show that Union Minister for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension Prithiviraj Chavan proposed seven amendments in all, arguing that these were needed to “strengthen the Act.” The ICs pointed out that five of these required change of rules at best and not full-fledged amendments. The other two proposals were vetoed by all ICs present barring two.

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Where are those minutes available?


DoPt never made the minutes even after 3 months.

Finally the IC, published his own version of the Minutes.

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The action of Shri Shailesh Gandhi in releasing the minutes of the Oct 14 meeting of ICs and DOPT officials on 1st Feb is indeed courageous and laudable. He has sought to absolve the commissioners and the Commission for any undesirable amendments to the Act that may be carried out by our politicians to reduce teeth of the Commissions and insert loop-holes to avoid parting with uncomfortable information. He has proved himself worthy of the Chair he is occupying.

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