Can't give info if FM, CEA consulted before note ban: RBI

NEW DELHI
1 Jan 2017

Whether views of the Chief Economic Advisor and the Finance Minister were taken before the sudden announcement of demonetisation of high-value currency notes by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8?

The Reserve Bank of India feels this query cannot be answered under the Right to Information Act as it does not comes under the definition of information under the transparency law.

The applicant wanted to know whether the "views of Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramaniam and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley were taken before announcement was made".

"Query is in the nature of seeking opinion from CPIO which is not defined as information as per Section 2(f) of the RTI Act," the RBI said in response to an RTI query.

Asked whether the information sought will fall under "seeking opinion" from the CPIO, former Chief Information Commissioner A N Tiwari said, "No. It does not. It is a fact sought by an RTI applicant. The CPIO cannot say an opinion has been sought from him."

"How it can be called seeking opinion? Whether someone was consulted or not is a matter of record. Had the question been that should views be taken then it would mean taking opinion," former Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said, expressing surprise at the response of RBI Central Public Information Officer.

The definition of information covers "any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force".

The query was also sent to the Prime Minister's Office and the Finance Ministry but it remained unanswered even after 30 days of filing of the RTI application.

The applicant had also sought to know the designation and the names of officials who were consulted before scraping of old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes.

"The information sought relates to sensitive matters pertaining to discontinuation/withdrawal of bank notes. The information is exempt from disclosure under Section 8(1)(a) and (g) of RTI Act," the RBI said.

The monetary policy regulator also did not disclose if the decision to demonetise currency notes worth Rs 20 lakh crore was opposed by any official or minister, saying the information sought is "hypothetical" in nature.

It also cited Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act to deny minutes of deliberations related to demonetisation. (PTI)