AHMEDABAD: A crucial decision of the Gujarat Information Commission (GIC), on Wednesday, is about to stir the hornet's nest in the power corridors of Gandhinagar.
Principal secretary, women and child development, J S Rana — who has been fighting a long-drawn battle against a departmental inquiry set against him by the former chief secretary P K Laheri — has been allowed access to a crucial file noting that led to the inquiry.
The General Administration Department (GAD) had denied Rana access to this file on the grounds that there was no larger public interest involved in disclosing Laheri's file noting. Rana then used the Right to Information (RTI) Act to gain access to the file noting alleging that Laheri had not consulted senior officials of Industries and Mines and the General Administration Department (GAD) as a matter of 'prudence' before initiating the inquiry.
The issue dates back to April 1997 when Rana was the managing director of the Gujarat State Financial Corporation (GSFC). Laheri had alleged in his file noting made in January 2005 that Rana had favoured a private promoter of the Gujarat Pipava Port by lowering the interest rates for a Rs 14.5-crore loan.
While allowing Rana access to the file noting, state chief information commissioner R N Das ordered that file notings which are required to be made objectively by government servants consist of opinions, advice or decisions made by the officer making it.
This falls under the definition of 'information' under RTI Act. File notings reveal the stages and processes of decision-making in a government body. Disclosure of notings would enhance a public authority's commitment to uphold transparency.
GAD had argued before the GIC that it had treated Laheri as a third party for opinion and that Laheri had refused that the notings be given to Rana. GIC countered GAD's view saying, "When a public servant, performing his duty, makes a noting in the file, he cannot be treated as a third party. The information in the noting is not private or personal information. A file is a public document. An officer notes on the file while discharging his assigned public duty."
While arguing about the matter, the applicant had also contended that if a public information officer (PIO) starts seeking concurrence of a third party, it would go against the spirit of the RTI Act.
"I have GSFC on record stating that the inquiries set against me were based on forged documents. I needed these documents under RTI to prove my innocence. I have even lodged an FIR with the Gandhinagar police station on April 5 against Laheri and the inquiry panel members," says Rana.
IT ISvery correct decision.After full bench decision of CIC in PYARE LAL VERMA's case it is universally accepted that file notings are open though ministry i.e.DOPT still on it's website under FAQs on RTI continue to say that file notings are exempt from disclosure.