Fear among officials on RTI: Deshmukh

Vilasrao Deshmukh said the liberal use of RTI has put fears in officials on freely expressing their views on any issue.

Updated: Oct 23, 2011, 08:46 AM IST

New Delhi: In the midst of a debate over dilution of the RTI Act, Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh feels that liberal access to government files has put fear among officials on giving their views, an issue which has to be addressed.

"RTI has expanded the scope. Nothing is secret anymore. Cabinet decisions and opinions expressed by officials are also accessed using this Act," the Union Minister for Science and
Technology and Earth Sciences told a news agency here.

He said the liberal use of RTI has put fears in officials on freely expressing their views on any issue.

"This has led to officials being apprehensive on noting their opinion on the file. A joint secretary has the right to overrule the views of an under-secretary. But now even a joint
secretary thinks ten times before making a file noting," Deshmukh said.

An official fears about his decision being questioned and he being called to give an explanation, he said.

"These difficulties faced by the administration have to be given a thought," said the two-time chief minister of Maharashtra.

He said Information Commissioners have been appointed for implementation of the RTI Act and there was no reason for hiding any information.

"Getting information about the final decision is proper. But the decision-making process and who said what in the process...if this is also made known then nobody would give
his views. Everybody fears this. This may have led to the debate on dilution of RTI," he said.

It was during Deshmukh`s tenure as Maharashtra chief minister RTI Act was enacted in the state in 2002. The Maharashtra RTI Act was considered as the base document for
the RTI Act passed by Parliament in 2005.

Incidentally, RTI was made into a law in Maharashtra after a hunger strike by social activist Anna Hazare in early 2000.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s call at a conference of Information Commission for a critical look at the RTI Act triggered a debate with the BJP and a section of the civil
society criticising the remark.

Singh had later clarified that he had never called for dilution of the Act.