PMO, people have a right to know

PMO, people have a right to know

Two recent cases of failure of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to provide information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act may be a sign of the cavalier manner in which this important right is being treated by the country's highest political authority.

Both cases relate to matters of serious public interest. In the first case, a petitioner approached the PMO two weeks after the demonetisation announcement for information on the amount of black money recovered by the government. On not getting a reply, he approached the Central Information Commission (CIC), who shifted the enquiry to the revenue department but a reply is still awaited. Similarly, a lawyer who sought information on the business leaders who accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his foreign tours was first told that the information was available on the PMO website. As this was not true and when the petitioner persisted, he was told that the information could not be provided as it concerned national security. On his complaint, the CIC ordered that the information be given, but the PMO is yet to do so.  

In both cases, the PMO's conduct amounted to refusal to give information which it was legally bound to provide. In the second case, it tried to mislead the petitioner and then invoked a wrong reason for its refusal to provide the answer. The applicants have not got their answers even after many months, and even the CIC's directive was disregarded. When the government has made tall claims about the benefits of demonetisation, why is it refusing to share the  information with the public? In a democracy, the people have the right to know who accompanies the Prime Minister on his tours because the information might provide pointers to the country's foreign relations and trade and business politics. These might also be impacted by the Prime Minister's associations. The enquiries are especially relevant because questions have been raised about businessman Gautam Adani's closeness to the Prime Minister and the presence of the alleged fraudster Nirav Modi in Davos, where he was part of a group photograph with the Prime Minister days after he had fled the country to escape Indian law.  

The PMO has given inadequate information or refused to give any information in other cases, too. The right to information is an important right which empowered the citizens. Ever since it was enacted, governments and politicians have tried to dilute and undermine it. The BJP's commitment to it has been doubtful and the PMO's treatment of RTI petitions may be a reflection of that. People should fight to preserve this right, too, as they have fought for many others.  

 

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