Almost one in four Right to Information (RTI) rejections in India have been made by the Ministry of Finance, according to the RTI Annual Return Reports for 2005-2010.
Adjusted for the number of requests received, the Finance Ministry tops the rejection rate at 24 per cent, followed by the Prime Minister’s Office (12 per cent) and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (11 per cent), an analysis of the reports by the PRS Legislative Research (PRS) has revealed.
The Finance Ministry possibly has a large number of rejections because of the larger number of requests that it receives. PRS feels may also be a result of the fact that the Finance Ministry receives a larger number of requests related to private and confidential information (such as income tax returns) as well as those which are held in a fiduciary capacity (such as details of accounts in nationalised banks).
India’s Right to Information Act, 2005 contains several exemption clauses which enable public authorities to deny requests for information. These are primarily mentioned in three sections – section 8, section 11, and section 24. Section 8 lists nine specific exemptions ranging from sovereignty of India to trade secrets, Section 11 provides protection to confidential third party information, and Section 24 exempts certain security and intelligence organisations.
The three most frequently used subsections in the 2005-2010 period were sections 8(1)(j), 8(1)(d) and 8(1)(e), accounting for almost three-fourths of all exemptions invoked. The percentage count for these sub-sections were 40, 18 and 15.
Section 8(1)(j) provides protection to personal information of individuals from disclosure in the absence of larger public interest. Section 8(1)(d) provides protection to trade secrets and intellectual property from disclosure in the absence of larger public interest. Section 8(1)(e) provides protection to information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship from disclosure in the absence of larger public interest.