Business Standard: Mumbai: Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
With reference to “Can’t disclose if Jaitley was consulted: FinMin” (March 6), the handling of RTI queries in government departments and offices including statutory bodies as well as the reporting of “RTI episodes” by the media of late lack transparency and professionalism.
For instance, in this case let us assume that the RTI query was whether the finance minister was “consulted” before the Prime Minister’s November 8 announcement on the “legal tender status” of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes. It was known that a cabinet meeting considered the issue preceding his announcement. Is there any doubt about the FM’s presence in that meeting? If FM had indeed attended the meeting, does the query concern what transpired in the meeting? Who should have “consulted” the FM and in what manner? Can anyone use the RTI route to enforce procedures outside the law of the land? The introduction of the name of RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi with a “former Central Information Commissioner” tag gives some credibility to the story and perhaps reduces chances that the reader may apply her own mind to independently analyse and understand things.
Perhaps, it is time designated officers under the RTI Act thought of some common code to ensure that the queries are not just evaded under some pretext or another. Professional and timely responses to RTI queries and exposing queries that are raised for gaining political mileage or bringing disrepute to the government or organisations by fuelling controversies on flimsy grounds will go a long way in restoring the credibility of the Act as an integral instrument in democratic processes.