PMO Refuses Replying to RTI Query on Corrupt Ministers

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Whistle blower and an Indian Forest Service Officer, Sanjiv Chaturvedi, filed an RTI query asking the PMO to share details of complaints received against various Union ministers and high-level functionaries from time to time.

However, the Prime Minister’s Office has refused to reply to this RTI query, stating that sharing information to such a large extent of the alleged complaints received against any Union minister may be subjective and a cumbersome exercise.

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Sanjiv Chaturvedi

Replying to an RTI query, the PMO said,

“These include pseudonymous and anonymous complaints. The complaints so received are duly examined keeping in view the veracity of the allegations/accusations and supporting documents in relation to these accusations.”

The PMO also justified that the records are not kept in one place and these are scattered across different sectors and units of this office. Adding further they also said that these complaints which are received over a period of time relate to a variety of matters, including corruption as well as non-corruption. In this RTI query, since the applicant has sought details only of corruption related complaints, the collation of such information will require the undertaking of thorough search of numerous files.

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PMO further said,

“Such an exercise will disproportionately divert the resources of the office from the normal discharge of its functions and attract the provisions of Section 7 (9) of the Right to Information Act.”

The section says “an information shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought unless it would disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority or would be detrimental to the safety or preservation of the record in question”.

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Ajit Doval

It is important to note that this RTI has been filed by Sanjiv Chaturvedi who has exposed several corruption cases in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) when he was posted as the chief vigilance officer — which acts as a distant arm of the Central Vigilance Commission to check corruption — during July 2012 to August 2014. Chaturvedi had also sought a probe against CVC K V Chowdary earlier, claiming that he had allegedly closed corruption cases in the AIIMS. However, the PMO has given a generic and vague explanation as to why they cannot provide such information.

On Monday, CBI officer Manish Kumar Sinha, had levelled corruption charges against Union Minister of State for Coal and Mines Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary.

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Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Chaudhary and Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) K V Chowdary were also a part of the petition filed in Supreme Court by Sinha, over alleged attempts to interfere in the probe against CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana, who has also been divested of his duties and sent on leave by the government along with CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma.

Some of the earlier instances when PMO has refused to divulge details or respond to RTI Queries –

December 2016 – The Prime Minister’s Office has refused to give information under RTI Act about decisions taken as part of the demonetisation plan. PMO has cited a provision of RTI Act claiming exemption from providing information.

February 2017 – The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has denied providing information regarding the number of employees from minority communities currently employed with it citing ‘non-availability of information’. The PMO consist of the immediate staff of the Prime Minister of India, as well as multiple levels of support staff reporting to the Prime Minister.

July 2017 – The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has denied information on various expenses incurred in foreign trips by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his predecessor Manmohan Singh, terming the query “vague”.

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