RTI-rattled UPA writes to all: no need to be pro-active in giving information

At a time when it is being regularly embarrassed via information disclosed through the Right to Information Act — the latest being the Finance Ministry's controversial note on 2G — a wary UPA has issued a circular to all states, ministries and departments asking them not to draw "inferences" or make "assumptions" or provide "opinion" or "advice" in RTI replies.

Citing a Supreme Court ruling in an RTI-related case, the two-page circular dated September 16, sent by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), draws attention to the SC observation that the public authority need not be generous in its interpretation of the law.

"...Where the information sought is not a part of the record of a public authority, and where such information is not required to be maintained under any law or the rules or regulations of the public authority, the Act does not cast an obligation upon the public authority, to collect or collate such non-available information and then furnish it to an applicant," the DoPT circular said quoting the August 2011 judgment in the CBSE vs Aditya Bandopadhyay case.

The circular further quoted the SC: "A public authority is not required to furnish information which require drawing of inferences and/or making of assumptions (and) it is also not required to provide 'advice' or 'opinion' to an applicant, nor required to obtain and furnish any 'opinion' or 'advice' to an applicant."

The circular says that the "public information officer is not supposed to create information, or to interpret information or to solve the problems raised by the applicants or to furnish replies to hypothetical questions."

There's unease in government circles over the use of RTI. Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily has called for a debate on what he called the law's transgression into the functioning of the government.

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