Skip to main content

Modi govt denies info under RTI on sacking of ex-foreign secretary Sujatha Singh

Sujatha Singh
By Our Representative
Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, has refused to part with information sought under right to information (RTI) Act about the reasons behind sacking of ex-foreign secretary Sujatha Singh early this year. Revealing this, well-known RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak said, “After the unceremonious exit of Singh, I filed an RTI application asking for the Cabinet note, file notings and list of persons who attended the meeting of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC).”
Singh was sacked on January 29, 2015, because Prime Minister Narendra Modi was reportedly unhappy with the Ministry of External Affairs, more particularly Singh, who "refused" to keep pace with Modi’s “bigger interests”. The view had gone strong that Singh and the PMO “diverged” on several issues and she was not making “necessary course corrections”.
Filed with the Department of Personnel and Training, which had unloaded the order of “retirement” of the erstwhile foreign secretary and the appointment of the new one on its website, the RTI plea was transferred to the Cabinet Secretariat, which first refused to respond even after 50 days.
This made Nayak, who is Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Delhi, to file his first appeal seeking explanation for the reason for delay.
“Now the Cabinet Secretariat has denied access to the Cabinet note and the list of people who attended the ACC meeting as well as all related file notings”, and instead given him “explanation” of recorded facts about the exit of the foreign secretary and the appointment of the new one, Nayak says.
Comments Nayak, “It is obvious that they do not want to officially reveal the true story behind the unceremonious exit of the last foreign secretary”, adding, the public information officer (PIO) has claimed that “access to ACC minutes under RTI is sub-judice at the Delhi High Court.”
Saying that this is “completely misplaced”, Nayak said, “None of the Delhi HC judgements/orders I cited in my RTI application have been stayed till date”, adding, “Further, the PIOs' contention that the matter is sub judice is not a valid ground for denying access to information under the RTI Act.”
Nayak believes, “The issue of ACC minutes is not just an administrative matter. The appointment of officers or their voluntary retirement is undeniably matters of public interest. They perform public duties and are paid salaries drawn from the taxes contributed by citizens.”
Pointing out that the Foreign Secretary “represents India at so many international fora and takes so many decisions about foreign policy to ensure that India's interests are protected and promoted”, Nayak says, “They may be officially designated as secretary to the Government of India, but they are essentially public servants.”
“Citizens have the right to know the complete details about their appointments and retirements, especially when they result in controversies”, Nayak says, adding, “People have the right to know the details of the circumstances of their appointment and exit. Yet, the Cabinet Secretariat believes in secrecy.”
“They do not seem to be interested in practising the promise of increased transparency in government that the Prime Minister has made time and again to the citizenry. Is this another case of the political executive not being able to rein in the bureaucracy in recent times?”, asks Nayak.

Comments

TRENDING

Gujarat refusal to observe Maulana Azad's birthday as Education Day 'discriminatory'

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government decision not to celebrate the National Education Day on !monday has gone controversial. Civil society organizations have particularly wondered whether the state government is shying away from the occasion, especially against the backdrop of "deteriorating" level of education in Gujarat.

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Visually challenged lady seeks appointment with Gujarat CM, is 'unofficially' detained

By Pankti Jog*
It was a usual noon of November 10. I got a phone call on our Right to Information (RTI) helpline No 9924085000 from Ranjanben of Khambhat, narrating her “disgraceful” experience after she had requested for an appointment with Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani. She wanted to meet Rupani, on tour of the Khambhat area in Central Gujarat as part of his Janvikas Jumbesh (Campaign for Development).

Violent 'Ajodhya' campaign in 1840s after British captured Kabul, destroyed Jama Masjid

Counterview Desk  Irfan Ahmad, professor at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany, and author of “Islamism and Democracy in India” (Princeton University Press, 2009), short-listed for the 2011 International Convention of Asian Scholars Book Prize for the best study in Social Sciences, in his "initial thoughts" on the Supreme Court judgment on the Babri-Jam Janmaboomi dispute has said, while order was “lawful”, it was also “awful.”

Bullet train acquisition: Land holding worth Rs 1.5 crore, Gujarat govt 'offer' Rs 8 lakh

By RK Misra*
Foundation stones laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi litter India’s cities, towns and villages, but there are few projects which he has pursued with such perseverance and tenacity as the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train one. However, the overwhelming state power notwithstanding, the farmers, whose lands are being acquired for the Modi government’s dream project, have no plans to give up the fight.

There may have been Buddhist stupa at Babri site during Gupta period: Archeologist

By Rajiv Shah
A top-notch archeologist, Prof Supriya Varma, who served as an observer during the excavation of the Babri Masjid site in early 2000s along with another archeologist, Jaya Menon, has controversially stated that not only was there "no temple under the Babri Masjid”, if one goes “beyond” the 12th century to 4th to 6th century, i.e. the Gupta period, “there seems to be a Buddhist stupa.”

VHP doesn't represent all Hindus, Sunni Waqf Board all Muslims: NAPM on SC ruling

Counterview Desk
India's top civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), even as describing the Supreme Court's Ayodhya judgement unjust, has said, it is an "assault on the secular fabric of the Constitution". In a statement signed by top social workers and activists, NAPM said, "The judgement conveys an impression to Muslims that, despite being equal citizens of the country, their rights are not equal before the law."