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

Vaccine nationalism? Covaxin isn't safe either, perhaps it's worse: Experts

By Rajiv Shah  I was a little awestruck: The news had already spread that Astrazeneca – whose Indian variant Covishield was delivered to nearly 80% of Indian vaccine recipients during the Covid-19 era – has been withdrawn by the manufacturers following the admission by its UK pharma giant that its Covid-19 vector-based vaccine in “rare” instances cause TTS, or “thrombocytopenia thrombosis syndrome”, which lead to the blood to clump and form clots. The vaccine reportedly led to at least 81 deaths in the UK.

'Scientifically flawed': 22 examples of the failure of vaccine passports

By Vratesh Srivastava*   Vaccine passports were introduced in late 2021 in a number of places across the world, with the primary objective of curtailing community spread and inducing "vaccine hesitant" people to get vaccinated, ostensibly to ensure herd immunity. The case for vaccine passports was scientifically flawed and ethically questionable.

'Misleading' ads: Are our celebrities and public figures acting responsibly?

By Deepika* It is imperative for celebrities and public figures to act responsibly while endorsing a consumer product, the Supreme Court said as it recently clamped down on misleading advertisements.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

US 'frustrated' with India’s discomfort: Maritime exercise in South China Sea

By Vijay Prashad*  In early April 2024, the navies of four countries -- Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States -- held a maritime exercise in the South China Sea. Australia’s Warramunga, Japan’s Akebono, the Philippines’ Antonio Luna, and the United States’ Mobile worked together in these waters to strengthen their joint abilities and -- as they said in a joint statement  -- to “uphold the right to freedom of navigation and overflight and respect for maritime rights under international law.” 

Dadi, poti discuss 'injustice' under 10 yr Modi rule: Video campaign goes viral

By Our Representative  Watan Ki Raah Mein, a civil society campaign of the Samvidhan Bachao Nagrik Abhiyan, has released a short video conversation on social media of an exchange of letters between a dadi and her poti discussing poverty, unemployment, corruption and women’s safety. The letters also raise the question of  suppression of our fundamental rights of speech, expression and justice. 

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

India 'not keen' on legally binding global treaty to reduce plastic production

By Rajiv Shah  Even as offering lip-service to the United Nations Environment Agency (UNEA) for the need to curb plastic production, the Government of India appears reluctant in reducing the production of plastic. A senior participant at the UNEP’s fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4), which took place in Ottawa in April last week, told a plastics pollution seminar that India, along with China and Russia, did not want any legally binding agreement for curbing plastic pollution.

No compensation to family, reluctance to file FIR: Manual scavengers' death

By Arun Khote, Sanjeev Kumar*  Recently, there have been four instances of horrifying deaths of sewer/septic tank workers in Uttar Pradesh. On 2 May, 2024, Shobran Yadav, 56, and his son Sushil Yadav, 28, died from suffocation while cleaning a sewer line in Lucknow’s Wazirganj area. In another incident on 3 May 2024, two workers Nooni Mandal, 36 and Kokan Mandal aka Tapan Mandal, 40 were killed while cleaning the septic tank in a house in Noida, Sector 26. The two workers were residents of Malda district of West Bengal and lived in the slum area of Noida Sector 9.