RTI Current Affairs - 2019
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Delivering a separate judgment in the Rafale case, Justice K.M. Joseph has made the following observations:
- The Right to Information Act confers on ordinary citizens the ‘priceless right’ to demand information even in matters affecting national security and relations with a foreign state.
- Justice Joseph’s judgment countered the claim made by the government for privilege over Rafale purchase documents under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), saying it affected national security and relations with France.
- Justice Joseph said the Right to Information (RTI) Act overawes the OSA.
- Under Section 8(2) of the RTI Act, the government cannot refuse information if disclosure in public interest overshadows certain ‘protected interests.’
Justice Joseph in his judgment has stated that through Section 8(2) of the RTI Act, Parliament has appreciated that it may be necessary to pit one interest against another and to compare the relative harm and then decide either to disclose or to decline information. If higher public interest is established, it is the will of Parliament that the greater good should prevail though at the cost of lesser harm being still occasioned.
The minutes of meeting which had approved the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes has been revealed through RTI. The government had contested that demonetisation would help curb black money and a steep rise in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes; check the circulation of fake currency and promote e-payments and financial inclusion.
Observations made by RBI
- RBI Directors had contested the government’s claim about curbing black money by highlighting that most of the black money is held not in cash but in the form of real sector assets such as gold or real estate and this move would not have a material impact on the assets.
- RBI Directors refuted the government’s argument about the growth in high denomination notes being much faster than the pace of economic expansion, by reasoning that when adjusted for inflation, the difference may not be so stark.
- RBI has stated that even though the incidence of counterfeiting is a concern, Rs 400 crore as a percentage of the total quantum of currency in circulation is not very significant.
Despite these reservations and disagreements, the RBI board had approved the demonetisation in larger public interest as it provided an opportunity to promote financial inclusion and digital payments. Further the government had assured the RBI directors that it would take measures to contain the use of cash and promote financial inclusion and electronic modes of payment.