Despite Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s assurance that a government resolution regarding setting up a committee that would define the term “information” would be cancelled, the committee has not only deliberated on its terms of reference but is also likely to finalise its report soon.
Officials from the General Administration Department (GAD) said the committee, headed by additional chief secretary (home), was set up on December 5, 2017, to define the term “information” to clarify whether a copy of a file or confidential documents should be given to MLAs and MPs when they seek such information for parliamentary work.
The move was seen as an attempt to control what information is given to elected representatives.
Legislators raised the issue during the winter session of the Assembly, and insisted that it was not right to ask MLAs to use the Right to Information Act to seek information. Subsequently, Fadnavis had told the Legislative Assembly that if the implication was that the government wanted MLAs and MPs to use the Right To Information Act to get information, then he would cancel the GR.
However, despite Fadnavis’s assurance, the committee went on to hold its first meeting on January 19, 2018.
It discussed several aspects of the issue of providing information to MLAs and MPs, including provisions of the RTI Act, provisions related to exemption from disclosure of information, etc. The minutes of that meeting noted,
“There are primary remarks of officials regarding the notings sections of files related to policy, inquiry, plan, etc. It needs to be discussed multiple times. In the larger public interest, there are pros and cons.
A final decision will be taken after the deliberations.”
The minutes further said, “If the pros and cons of a policy or plan is disclosed before taking a final decision, then it may lead to creating a wrong perception about officials involved and may create misunderstandings about the policy.”
The minutes also noted that revealing notings could cause threat to some people’s lives, obstruct criminal investigations and may violate the right to privacy.
“The information can be voluminous and may require lot of time and manpower. So, the short information required for public interest, which is not exempted under Right To Information, is expected to be given to MLAs,” it says.
General Administration Secretary Shivaji Daund said the committee would submit its report soon.
Asked about Fadnavis’s comment in the Assembly that it would be scrapped, he said, “That will be discussed in the report.”