While the Indian government has declared that secrecy was very essential before demonetisation was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the fact is, the decision affected every citizen, as crores of citizens have been standing in queues since 9th November, battling hardships and cash crunch in banks and automatic teller machines (ATMs). Hence, to obtain information regarding the decision falls not only under the fundamental rights of citizens under the Constitution but also under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Venkatesh Nayak, research scholar and co-ordinator of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) urges citizens to procure information under RTI regarding this decision. Nayak has steered this campaign by himself filing two RTIs – one to the Department of Currency Management, Reserve Bank of India and the other to Under Secretary (Currency I & II), Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance.
Citizens have right to know about exact procedures followed before the government announced demonetisation. Also, they can seek information on what were the deliberations of Ministers and officers involved in the decision-making process and much more.
Nayak, in his RTI applications has sought the following information:
Apropos of S.O. No. 3407(E) notified in the Gazette of India, dated 8 November 2016, regarding the decision to cease bank notes of denomination Rs500 and Rs1000 as legal tender, I would like to obtain the following information from your public authority, under the RTI Act:
To the Reserve Bank of India
1) A clear photocopy of the minutes of all meetings of the Central Board of Directors regarding the aforementioned subject matter, held till date, along with the papers, presentations or other documents placed before them at every meeting;
2) A clear photocopy of all communication along with Annexures if any sent to the Government of India regarding the decisions/ recommendations of the Central Board of Directors, subsequent to the meetings specified at para #1 above;
3) A clear photocopy of all submissions/ petitions/ representations or communication, by whatever name called, from any person/ organisation/ institution or entity, by whatever name called, regarding demonetisation of currency notes, since 24 May 2014 till date
4) A clear photocopy of all responses sent by your public authority to the senders of the submissions/ petitions/ representations or communication, by whatever name called, specified at para #3 above;
5) A clear photocopy of all file notings and correspondence held by your public authority in hard copy or electronic form, including emails regarding demonetisation of currency notes.
To the Ministry of Finance:
1) A clear photocopy of the entire Cabinet Note along with Annexures, if any, on the aforementioned subject, that was put up to the Union Cabinet for its decision;
2) A clear photocopy of all correspondence and file notings held in hard copy and electronic form containing the deliberations of Ministers and officers involved in the decision-making process on the aforementioned subject matter;
3) A clear photocopy of any document constituting evidence that the aforementioned subject matter was placed in the public domain for comments from the general public prior to the submission of the Cabinet Note specified at para #1 above for its consideration and action; and
4) A clear photocopy of all submissions/ petitions/ representations or communication, by whatever name called, from any person/ organisation/ institution or entity, by whatever name called, regarding the aforementioned subject matter, since 24 May 2014 till date.
Nayak says, “Readers who have the right to seek information under India's RTI Act must formally ask these and more probing questions to demand disclosure of the deliberations of all public servants involved in the latest demonetisation exercise. I request citizens to feel free to use or adapt these formats to seek transparency in the decision-making process or amend the queries as they think best. This is a matter of immense public interest affecting every citizen of India. There is no reason why any of this information should be withheld from public scrutiny.”
“Unfortunately, instead of paying serious heed to stories of illegal transactions, people who raise such queries are being dubbed supporters of black money and corruption not only by elements in the political establishment but also by other citizens who have not thought these issues through. Many a concerned citizen wants to live in a "Swachch Bharat" instead of becoming a cheerleader for a "dry washed" economy,’’ Nayak added.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)