NEW DELHI: In a landmark decision on the electoral bond scheme, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the government to divulge the names of individuals and entities who requested maintenance of confidentiality of donors’ identities and provide copies of representations given.

Taking a serious note of how an application under Right to Information (RTI) Act was handled, CIC has issued showcause notices to department of economic affairs, department of financial services, department of revenue and Election Commission and sought explanation on why maximum penalty should not be imposed for giving incomplete, misleading and vague replies to the applicant.

Information Commissioner Suresh Chandra gave the decision in a two-year-old RTI application filed by activist Venkatesh Nayak who had sought information from department of economic affairs (DEA) in July 2017 about total number of representations or petitions from donors requesting their identity remain confidential, copies of representations and the draft electoral bond scheme.

However, there was no reply. Nayak filed a first appeal in August 2017 and the first appellate authority ordered the application be transferred to Reserve Bank of India, department of financial services, Election Commission of India and the coordination section of DEA to get the information.

Even then, Nayak did not get to know anything about the donors who had requested confidentiality. He filed a complaint with CIC in January 2018.

In its final decision, CIC took a serious note of how no department had addressed the application properly. Information Commissioner Suresh Chandra noted, “Reply given by RBI is incomplete. The public information officer of RBI is directed to be more cautious while giving information to RTIs. He is directed to revisit the RTI application and give a self-explanatory reply to the applicant…” Issuing showcause notices to the departments and Election Commission, Chandra said, “All the written explanations must reach the Commission within three weeks.”

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