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Govt agrees to disclose audio recordings of Lokpal Committee

New Delhi: Reversing its position, Government has agreed to make public the audio recordings of proceedings of the Joint Drafting Committee constituted to draft the Lokpal Bill.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had earlier refused to bring out the deliberations of the Committee in public domain after this information was sought by a RTI query from activist S C Agrawal.

Agrawal welcomed the decision of the Government, saying it is a good beginning for total transparency.

“I welcome the decision,” he said.

The Joint Drafting Committee, comprising five members of Team Anna and an equal number of Cabinet ministers, was formed to finalise the draft of the Lokpal Bill.

In its recent reply, the department apparently changed its mind and asked Agrawal to deposit Rs 450 as additional fee for providing the audio recordings of the deliberations.
Agrawal said he will deposit the money under protest tomorrow because information to a RTI query has to be provided free of cost if the response does not come within 30 days.

“The audio recordings of the meetings of the Joint Drafting Committee for drafting the Lokpal Bill have now become available with the undersigned. There are nine CDs and you may deposit copying fee of Rs 450 so that copies of the CDs can be supplied to you,” Under Secretary of DoPT, Amarjit Singh wrote.

Earlier, responding to the RTI query, the DoPT had said that they require the nod of Law Ministry to make public audio recordings of the closed door meetings between the government and Team Anna.

“Joint Drafting Committee (JDC) was constituted by notification of the Ministry of Law and Justice wherein JDC was supposed to evolve its own procedure. It may be further noted that the matter relating to RTI queries on audio- recordings of JDC has been referred to Department of Legal Affairs in Ministry of Law and Justice for clarification,” an RTI response from DoPT had said.

“At a time when prominent Union Ministers are criticising use of RTI allegedly as misuse it is indeed a welcome decision of the Union Government to have provided audio tapes of complete deliberations of joint drafting committee on Lokpal through RTI Acts,” Agrawal said.

“Truth will be public on what Union ministers were saying and what civil society members were saying,” he added.

Agrawal rebutted charges that the transparency law is being misused and attempts are being made to settle political scores.

“If RTI would not have been there A Raja and (Suresh) Kalmadi would not have been in jail,” he said.

Agrawal also said that his RTI “revelations” are exposing persons from all the parties irrespective of being in the ruling or in the opposition side.

Team Anna member Kiran Bedi wanted the Government to make available the transcript of the proceedings and actually publish it on its website.

“It will be good to have the script…We will exactly know what was said and done,” she said.

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