The more things change, the more they stay the same, judging by a PMO reply given to an RTI applicant – putting PM Narendra Modi govt's work style under spotlight when compared with former PM Manmohan Singh.
In April last year, applicant retired Commodore Lokesh Batra was refused disclosure of steps taken by the Prime Minister's Office to proactively part with information as mandated under the RTI Act.
That prompted Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat Chief Minister, to take potshots at the PMO questioning the UPA for taking credit for RTI even as the top office was denying information.
Three weeks after Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister, his office gave a similar reply in June this year refusing information to the RTI applicant on similar grounds.
CPIO S E Rizvi had then questioned the usefulness of giving the applicant details about the list of files related to RTI Act implementation which are maintained under the ES-2 Section of the PMO and other details.
He had refused to disclose information saying the query would fall in the category of one "where the applicant has not specified how the information is useful to him either personally, socially or nationally".
Under the Right to Information Act, an RTI applicant is not required to give any reasons while seeking information. As per the Act, information can only be denied if it comes under exemption clauses of the transparency law.
Batra posed a similar question to the PMO on May 19 seeking details of the files maintained by it related to the implementation of RTI.
But he has now got the same answer from Rizvi which was given to him last year.
Batra regretted that despite change of government, "nothing seems to have changed in the PMO".
He said after the change of government at the Centre on 26 May 2014, a message under the title "Quest for Transparency" was posted on the website of PMO.
"This created hope for all those working for 'Transparency and Accountability' in governance. Alas! Going by the RTI response of CPIO, PMO, nothing seems to have changed in PMO viz. 'Transparency and Accountability'," he said.
Among other pieces of information, Batra has also sought to know from the PMO the details of files and records which have been digitised and computerised by it as mandated in Section 4(1)(a) of the Right to Information Act.