Moneylife Events
‘Secret documents must be reviewed and made available after 20 years’

Wajahat Habibullah, former CIC says official secrets have no place in democracy


“A democracy is no place for secrets. And RTI (Right to Information) users therefore, must focus on implementing the Act, and making the authorities more proactive in disclosing information, especially now, when the debate is going on about the reach of the Right to Information Act,” said former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah. He was speaking at a seminar organised by Moneylife Foundation on 15th October at the Nehru Centre, Worli, at Mumbai.

He talked about a case where veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar had sought some documents about the interaction between Benazir Bhutto and Indian diplomats from the 1960s. The ministry of external affairs said that a junior officer had reviewed the records and ruled that the information cannot be disclosed. “The senior bureaucrats and ministers sided with him. I then ruled that a committee be set up to review such secret documents that are more than 20 years old and make them available to the public. Unfortunately, that has not happened,” he said.

Mr Habibullah said that efforts are being made by authorities to make information available online, as the department of administrative reforms and pension schemes is going to invest Rs23,000 crore for e-governance. When asked about why authorities have not disclosed information, he said that is because the law doesn’t say how to enforce it.

The current Supreme Court-Chief Information Commission tussle regarding a CIC directive has caused much anxiety to RTI activists, along with the rumours about amendment to the RTI Act. Mr Habibullah said, “I don’t think the law needs to be changed—that will dilute its powers. The Prime Minister thinks that the present Act prevents information officers from expressing their honest opinion. I think that a bureaucrat will never disclose information if he has something to hide and the PM’s fears are unfounded.”

While speaking about whether non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should be covered by RTI, he said that NGOs that are substantially funded by the government must not be exempt. He cited a hearing about disclosure of some information about a racecourse. “I believe that if some institution is set up under a law, it is subject to RTI. Such organisations are often indirectly funded by the public as they get many concessions.”

He also discussed the exemptions mentioned in the RTI Act. He said that first information reports (FIRs) can also be accessed by RTI, and such disclosure cannot be said to impede investigation. However, the concept of ‘privacy’ must be discussed, because there is a demand to cover public-private partnerships (PPPs); while on the other hand, Parliament is about to introduce a Bill on privacy in the next session.

Mr Habibullah said that public authorities have taken advantage of the low compensations and penalties that have been levied against errant PIOs (Public Information Officers). “They just file a case in order to get away with delays. The penalty course must be more forcefully used,” he said. When asked about whether housing societies come under RTI, he said that if contradictory opinions exist about the issue, it reveals that the law needs clarity.

In reply to a question, he also said that an RTI user can get compensation in case of harassment.

Anil Divan, senior advocate at the Supreme Court and current president of the Bar Association of India, who was Mr Habibullah’s co-panellist, said that the RTI Act must be used to expose corruption.

He said, “Persons who hold Constitutional positions are immune from Executive and political pressure, but the agencies which are in charge of investigating cases or vigilant bodies are governed by the Executive. An independent investigation agency which will be at par with the Supreme Court or Election Commission is necessary to act on the cases on corruption.”

Mr Divan shared his views on the current RTI-Judiciary tussle. He recounted many rulings and incidents that have come up in relation to disclosure of information by the Judiciary He said, “Judiciary is a powerful institution, and it can check the powers of the government. It is thus expected that the Judiciary itself should set an example and be pro-RTI.”



P M Ravindran

5 years ago

And wait a minute! Though I was not at all interested in hearing Wajahat, I was curious to hear the advocate and so clicked on the video. But it is not available! So too at



In Reply to P M Ravindran 5 years ago

Dear Sir,
Sorry for the link. The link was referring only to one video of Mr Habibullah, which later was clubbed with other two videos. Therefore it was showing an error. However, it is now rectified. You can click below the arcticle header of click on this link

P M Ravindran

In Reply to MDT 5 years ago

Thanks! But as I stated earlier totally disinterested in hearing prostitutes talking of chastity. So skipped the Wajahat talks, went for Anil Diwan. But I wish the lawyer walked his talk. If only he could get some of the clerks in the DoPT and the ICs in the CIC convicted for treason!

P M Ravindran

5 years ago

And about the judiciary and RTI, the less said the better. Of course the issue of judges assets is notorious. But even in that case what has never been reported is that the CIC did not enforce the law which required the then CJI, K G Balakrishnan, being slapped with a penalty of Rs 25,000 for denying information as the deemed PIO!

And overall, the courts have introduced exorbitant fees an cost and even cost for 1st appeal which is strictly a free opportunity given to the head or other superior officer of a public authority to correct the mistakes of its subordinate employee who is the PIO.

P M Ravindran

5 years ago

Wajahat Habibulla, as the first Chief Information Commissioner of the country is in a very big way responsible for subverting the law. I can bet that his correct decisions as the CIC for 5 long years can be counted on one's finger tips.

For a petition I had submitted to the President of India to remove him from office please see my blog at

Striking workers of SPIL, Suzuki Motorcycle vacate plants

Taking a tough stand, the Haryana government on Thursday declared the strike by the workers at the three entities of Suzuki Motor Corporation in India illegal and initiated process to cancel registrations of unions at SPIL and SMIPL

Manesar: The workers on strike at Suzuki Powertrain India (SPIL) and Suzuki Motorcycle India Pvt Ltd (SMIPL) vacated factory premises on Saturday morning, following an order from the Haryana government, reports PTI.

The workers at the two companies have been on strike since 7th October in support of their colleagues who have struck work at Maruti Suzuki India’s (MSI) Manesar plant in Gurgaon district in Haryana.

“We have decided to vacate the plant as per the government order but we will continue our strike,” SMI Employees Union president Anil Kumar told PTI.

Similarly, workers at SPIL are leaving the factory which they have occupied since 7th October.

“We are vacating the plant premises under compulsion as police have threatened action but we will continue to be on strike outside the plant,” SPI Employees Union president Sube Singh Yadav said.

Taking a tough stand, the Haryana government on Thursday declared the strike by the workers at the three entities of Suzuki Motor Corporation in India illegal and initiated process to cancel registrations of unions at SPIL and SMIPL.

On Friday evening, the striking workers of MSI’s Manesar plant had vacated the premises, following an order from the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The workers of the country’s largest car-maker have been on strike demanding the reinstatement of about 1,200 casual workers.

They are also demanding that 44 permanent workers, who have been suspended after a settlement agreement was signed on 1st October to end a 33-day-long standoff, must also be taken back.

On Friday, MSI had sacked 25 more workers at its Manesar plant. The firm on 9th October had dismissed 10 workers and five trainees, while another 10 were suspended.

Meanwhile, the company said there was no production at the Manesar plant.

The main plant at Gurgaon is also shut as part of a two-day closure due to constraints of engines and transmission supply from SPIL.


Bulls out of the woods, for the time being

Only a crossing of the recent high of 5,169 points will indicate that there is further steam left in the current rise in the months ahead

S&P Nifty close: 5,132.30

Market Trend

Short-term: Sideways; Medium-term: Downwards; Long-term: Sideways

The Nifty opened flat and rallied sharply this week to close the “downside gap” area between 5,059-5,109 points, thus mitigating the bearishness. The Nifty rose 244 points (+5.00%) on significantly higher volumes. The sectoral indices which outperformed the market were BSE IT (+8.73%), BSE Teck (+8.09%), BSE Bankex (+6.93%) and BSE CDS (+5.64%) while the ones which underperformed were BSE Healthcare (+0.95%), BSE CGS (+2.03%), BSE FCMG (+2.35%) and BSE Power.  

The Histogram MACD has moved above the median line implying that the short-term trend is on the verge of turning up which could result in this corrective rise lasting for the next 4-6 weeks.

Here are some key levels to watch out for this week.

  • As long as the S&P Nifty stays above 5,051 points (pivot) the bears will be under pressure.
  • Support levels in declines are pegged at 4,962 and 4,792 points.
  • Resistance levels on the upside are pegged at 5,222 and 5,311 points.

Some Observations

The bulls have put the ball back in the bears’ court and needn’t get worried as long as the “gap area” between 4,827-4,861 holds in any correction.

1.    Support in declines will be provided by the “gap area” between 4,827-4,861 points.

2.    The 5,169 level is the crucial resistance area to watch out for this week.

3.    If the Nifty fails to cross this resistance level then we could see it correct down to 4,983; 4,934 or 4,886 points which will act as support.

4.    If the Nifty succeeds in crossing the above-mentioned resistance, it will face a stiff hurdle in the downside “gap area” of 5,229-5,323 points.


As mentioned last week that “the high wave line” pattern gave an inkling that the market was readying itself for a trending move (which it did) which could last for a few weeks did materialise, though it did exceed our expectations by crossing the 5,044 points (R2) level. Only a crossing of the recent high of 5,169 points will indicate that there is further steam left in the current rise in the months ahead. Expect a kneejerk reaction in the beginning of this week which could be bought into provided we approach the support levels mentioned above. The crucial resistance area in the event of 5,169 points getting crossed is the 5,229-5,323 points range. The bulls can now breathe a sigh of relief as the onus is now on the bears to counter attack.

(Vidur Pendharkar works as a Consultant Technical Analyst & Chief Strategist,


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