New Delhi: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was justified in denying information pertaining to the printing of currency notes post demonetisation citing exemption clauses related to national and economic security in the RTI Act, Chief Information Commissioner R K Mathur has said.
RTI applicant R L Kain had on November 15, 2016 filed an appeal seeking information on the printing of currency notes and other matters after the government had announced its decision of demonetisation.
The PMO had denied him information citing Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act.
Mathur dimissed a complaint filed by Kain, saying the demonetisation process was on when the application and the first appeal was filed — November 15, 2016 and December 24, 2016 respectively — and it justified invoking Section 8(1)(a) of the RTI Act.
“The commission is of the view that in the interest of the then ongoing process of demonetisation and the then prevailing situation in the country, the CPIO was justified in the stand taken by him,” he said.
The commission cannot take any position on the disclosure of information now as the petitioner had filed the complaint under the RTI Act, according to which “only a penalty can be imposed if the allegations of malafide denial are substantiated”, he said.
Kain’s application had said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in November, 2016 stated at election meetings that new denomination notes were “under printing for the last three to six months”, Mathur noted.
“He (the applicant) stated that if notes were under printing for the last three to six months, then how the proposal of the RBI was received at 6 pm on November 08, 2016, cabinet decision taken at 7 pm and notes were demonetised at 8 pm the same day,” Mathur said in his order.
The applicant had also said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his various TV programmes had stated that the notes were under printing for the last many months at six government printing presses, he noted.
“The appellant stated that the statements of the PM and the finance minister are contradictory,” Mathur pointed out.
Kain had also said that as per Section 24 of the RBI Act, 1934, there is no series of denomination of Rs 2,000 and any additions or subtractions require amendments by Parliament, the Chief Information Commissioner’s order read.
“However, in the instant case, no executive orders or statutory orders were issued and printing of Rs. 2000 was commenced without any amendment in the statute,” Kain had said.
“He (the applicant) alleged that printing of new series of Rs. 2000 resulted in issue of illegal notes,” Mathur said.
Claiming that the PMO’s denial of information was “wrong” as the Reserve Bank of India had already given minutes of the meeting wherein the decision of demonetisation was taken, the appellant had said that a penalty should be imposed on the respondent (PMO).
The PMO had said that “sharing of any information pertaining to the matter may have jeopardized the entire process of demonetisation which had been undertaken in utmost secrecy”.
The appellant had said it was “mandatory duty of government to communicate to the President all decisions of the council of ministers relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation under Article 78 of the Constitution. Hence, the CPIO has no locus standi to refuse information”.