There is no information available about officials whose views were taken before the decision to demonetise high-value currency notes was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, the Prime Minister’s Office has said. The PMO also refused to answer a query on whether views of the Chief Economic Advisor and the Finance Minister were taken before the sudden announcement on scrapping of notes was made, saying the query does not come under the definition of “information” under the RTI Act.
Responding to an RTI query seeking to know the names of officials who were consulted before the decision, it said, “Information sought is not available in the record of this office.”
The applicant had also sought to know from the top office if any meetings were held on the issue of demonetisation before the announcement was made and on the preparedness of the government to smoothly exchange Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes with newly announced legal tender.
He also wanted to know if the government had considered that introduction of new 2,000 rupee notes will need recalibration of ATMs in the country, besides asking if any officer or minister opposed the decision. It had also asked about any estimate on record to show what period of time will be required to convert scrapped notes into new ones. To all these queries, the PMO said these don’t come under the definition of information under the RTI Act.
Earlier, the Reserve Bank of India had also refused to divulge such information citing exemption clauses and saying that these queries do not come under the definition of the “information” under the RTI Act.
The definition of information in the RTI Act covers “any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force”.
Former Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said, “Whether someone was consulted or not is a matter of record and comes under the ambit of RTI Act.”