Skip to main content

RTI reply suggests Union Home Ministry destroyed 11,100 files in July casually, without caring for rules

By Our Representative
Even after more than a month of destroying the 11,100 files, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India, does not have, in one comprehensive list, details of all files it destroyed in July. Alleging this on the basis of a right to information (RTI) application, senior activist of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) Venkatesh Nayak has said, “Having looked at records management practices in some detail during my decade-long career of advocating for transparency in government, I find it surprising that the MHA went about destroying files without even preparing a list of files for review.”
Referring to Union home minister Rajnath Singh’s statement in Rajya Sabha in July, Nayak says, “The Home Minister stated that records were weeded out in accordance with Para 113 of the Central Secretariat's Manual of Office Procedure (CS-MOP). Para 113(4) states that the department records room must send a list of files ripe for reviewing and destruction/ archivisation in January each year in quarterly lots.”
However, the RTI reply by the public information officer said that the even the list of files that were weeded out “has not been compiled till date”, which indicates that the procedure for properly identifying files for weeding out was simply not followed. Nayak underlines, “Section 4(1)(a) of the RTI Act states that all public authorities, including the MHA must index, catalogue, computerise and network the records they hold in custody.”
The activist asks, “If the MHA's divisions did not have a preliminary list of files to be reviewed for destruction, how exactly did the weeding out process take place? Did the 500 officers, whom the Home Minister stated as being involved in the weeding out exercise, simply walked to the records rooms or the shelves where the old files were kept and started weeding them out one by one?”
Nayak comments, “The refusal to give details of this process both to Parliament when the issue was debated and now when a request is made under RTI, is shocking to say the least. What worsens the case is the audacity of the PIO's reply sent more than 30 days after the request was received in the MHA that the information will be given only on payment of fees." Nayak emphasises, "Under the RTI Act it is simply not open to a PIO to charge any fees for giving information after 30 days. Nor can the supply of information be deferred to a date beyond 30 days.”
Nayak says, “The Home Minister informed Parliament that 500 officials were involved in the weeding out exercise. No further details were given. When I asked for only the designations of such officers because officers of all grades and ranks are not permitted to authorise destruction of official records, a vague reply is given to me.”
He adds, “Let alone the names, even the designations of the officers who authorised destruction of files is being denied under the RTI Act in a roundabout manner. This is not in keeping with the promise of transparency that was made when this Government took over the reins of power in Delhi. Citizen taxpayers have the right to know who authorised the destruction of files, as the salary bill for the officers' time spent on this work is footed by them.”
Nayak further says that the rules require that records that are more than 25 years old be reviewed for archivisation in consultation with the National Archives. “However, the PIO's reply indicates that National Archives was not consulted at all during this weeding our process. So how old were the records that were weeded out is a serious question which was not satisfactorily answered either in Parliament or in response to my RTI application.”
Further, “these records are meant for preservation for 25 years or more. However, the PIO's reply indicates that no file classified 'top secret', 'secret' or 'confidential' was sent to the National Archives in June-July, 2014. It is only obvious that files of shorter lifespan would also not have been sent to the Archives for preservation as they may not contain information of historical value that is worth preserving. What then was destroyed in June-July 2014 is a mystery that neither the Home Minister's reply in the Rajya Sabha nor the PIO's reply clarifies.”
“The Home Minister and his senior officers have a lot of 'homework' to do if they are to truly deliver on the Prime Minister's promise of increased transparency in the Central government's actions and greater accountability to the people of India. This kind of transparency cannot be accomplished through Twitter or Facebook or other social media. What is required to be done is something akin to what Norway has done with its official records.”
In Norway, Nayak says, “the meta data about all files generated and held by public authorities is published online. A request under their RTI law may be made for any of these documents through this website. If a requested document is not covered by any exemption, it is emailed to the requester within a week. I have received some official documents in this manner when I tested out this facility. India has a lot of work to do if it wants to join the groups of nations that practice the transparency they preach”.

Comments

TRENDING

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Gujarat link of controversial US doctor who 'forced' WHO quiz Trump's wonder drug

By Rajiv Shah
A top American doctor, Sapan Sharankishor Desai, born and raised in the “affluent” North Shore (Chicago) region of Illinois by Indian parents, at one point of time involved in NGO activity through  dedicated to “improving” the lives of the impoverished in Gujarat, is in the eyes of a major international storm following his paper (retracted) in a “Lancet” questioning Donald Trump-promoted drug hydroxychloroquine.

Border conflict? RBI nod India's 'brotherly' help to China internationalise its currency

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
In the middle of a global pandemic, China started an unprovoked border conflict with India. It unraveled trust deficit and ties between the two neighbours. As thousands of Chinese troops tried occupying Indian territory, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government directs the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow the Bank of China to start regular banking services in India. The Bank of China will now operate in India like any other commercial banks.

Dalits in India, Blacks in US suffer 'similar' humiliation: Macwan drafts letter to Trump

Counterview Desk
Well-known human rights activist Martin Macwan, recipient of the prestigious Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2000, has drafted an open letter to US President Donald Trump following the disturbing turn of events with the murder of George Floyd, leading to widespread protests in the US. He has sought signatures of concerned citizens before sending it to Trump.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.