New Delhi: There is no information available about officials whose views were taken before the decision to demonetise high-value currency notes was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has said.
The PMO also refused to answer a query on whether the chief economic advisor (CEA) and the finance minister were consulted before the sudden announcement was made, saying the query does not come under the definition of “information” under the RTI Act.
Responding to an RTI query seeking to know the names of officials who were consulted before the decision, it said, “Information sought is not available in the record of this office.”
The applicant had also asked if any meetings were held on the issue of demonetisation before the announcement was made and on the preparedness of the government to smoothly exchange Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes with newly minted legal tender.
He also wanted to know if the government had considered the fact that the introduction of the new Rs 2000 notes would require that all the country’s ATMs be recalibrated, besides asking if any officer or minister opposed the decision.
The RTI query had also asked if there exists any estimate, on record, for how much time it will take to convert the scrapped notes into new ones.
To all these queries, the PMO responded saying they don’t come under the definition of information under the RTI Act.
Earlier, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had also refused to divulge such information citing exemption clauses and saying that these queries do not come under the definition of “information” under the RTI Act.
The definition of information in the RTI Act covers “any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.”
Former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said, “Whether someone was consulted or not is a matter of record and comes under the ambit of RTI Act.”
When it came to queries related to what steps the government took to ensure that people did not face problems after demonetisation was implemented, the PMO transferred the queries to economic affairs wing of the finance ministry.
It also transferred the queries related to the number of new notes of Rs 2000 and Rs 500 that were printed before the announcement as well as all the recorded reasons for implementing the demonetisation.