In what was seen as a major climbdown, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Sunday reversed her own diktat on the Right to Information Act, whereby she had restricted access to official information about several issues.
The reversal followed widespread criticism of the earlier notification issued on June 2 , which, among other things, had even dissallowed information relating to complaints against ministers or notings and endorsements on secretariat files.
In all there were 14 heads under which information under the RTI Act was proposed to be denied by the UP government, as per the June 2 notification. Even though the state government had remained tight-lipped about it, a popular TV chhannel spilled the beans and taking the cue from that, a number of RTI activists led by state Congress president Rita Bahugun Joshi threatened to oppose the move. While Joshi planned a protest demonstration before UP Governor T V Rajeshwar on June 8, the UP chief minister chose to reverse her June 2 notification, knocking off as many as nine of the 14 items from her earlier list .
At a hurriedly convened press conference, cabinet secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh said, "there were only five areas about which information would not be made available under the RTI Act ; these included information relating to appointment of governors, ministers and High Court judges, code of conduct for ministers and material for monthly demi-official letter to be sent to the President of India on behalf of the Governor."
According to him,"the restriction as per today's revised notification would remain only on five clearly specified domains." Asked if the state government was within its powers to initiate such an action , he said, "the decision was taken well within the framework of the RTI Act which entitles the state government to refuse any information for strategic or security reasons."
The earlier notification has not only banned dissemination of information relating to complaints against ministers and endoresements on secretariat files, but also information relating to nominations for Padma Awards, Rules of Government Business, complaints against MPs and even appointment of Accountant General, besides all other officially declared 'secret' tasks." Both notifications were stated tonhave been issued under the provisions of section 24 (4) of the RTI Act 2005.