Citizens' Issues
RTI amendment: Private Bill seeks changes in Act to dilute the legislation; wants applicants to give reasons for seeking information

Politicians across party lines are facing the heat from social activists, so they want certain provisions of the RTI Act to be toned down. But activists cry foul; consider any amendment to the RTI Act as ‘dangerous and regressive’

While the Prime Minister’s statement about RTI (Right to Information) “interfering with governance” has made headlines, the introduction of a Private Bill to amend the RTI Act has gone unnoticed. The proposal has been made by Bhausaheb Wakchaure, Shiv Sena Member of Parliament (MP) from Shirdi, Maharashtra.

The draft Bill says that an RTI applicant has to give reasons for seeking information, which was not there in the original Act. Moreover, the Bill also says that a public information officer (PIO) may reject an application, and refuse to disclose information of ‘personal nature’, unless he is satisfied that it is for larger public interest.

Activists have slammed the draft Bill as ‘regressive.’ Some activists have decided to write to the Prime Minister to register their protest. Activist Krishnaraj Rao, in a letter, says, “The draft Bill seeks to nullify the biggest protection that the RTI Act gives to citizens, namely, Section 6(2), which categorically states that an applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason. The proposed amendment seeks to shift the focus to the identity and motives of the RTI applicant. This shift of focus is perverse and mala fide. Such an amendment will encourage corrupt officers to hound the RTI applicants and deny information to them.”

Mr Rao said that instead of seeking to dilute the Act, the government should work towards proactive disclosures and ensure safety for activists. In 2009, a government appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers committee had submitted its report on implementation of the RTI Act—pointing out the shortcomings of the government and offering suggestions for overcoming them. However, the recommendations, which included setting up of facilitation centres in rural areas, conducting awareness campaigns and maintaining records—have not been implemented.

In the seminars on the RTI Act conducted by Moneylife Foundation, Wajahat Habibullah, former chief information commissioner and Shailesh Gandhi, central information commissioner, have said that the Act does not need any amendment. “The Act is pretty powerful, and amendments will only dilute it,” Mr Gandhi had said.

The government had talked about amendment several times earlier, but had to backtrack following severe criticism. After the 2G scam caused considerable embarrassment, many ministers, including the Prime Minister, have said that RTI is ‘taxing’ the time and resources of the public authorities, and is interfering with governance.

Renowned activist and National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI) spokesperson Aruna Roy slammed the statement; saying that the government should be more concerned with the killing of RTI activists and take action against corruption that is being exposed by the Act.

RTI is today faced with many hurdles. Recently, the Supreme Court Registry locked horns with the Chief Information Commission (CIC) over maintaining records and disclosing information. Shortly before that, taking note of the increasing number of attacks on RTI activists, the CIC issued an order that authorities make public the information which may have been the reason for the attack.

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COMMENTS

Vijaykumar B Borkar

5 years ago

What else can we expect from MP Shri. Bhausaheb Waghchaure, a beaurocrat turned politician, because he himself is totally well versed about the day to day activities that is called 'Government Machinery.' His move to dilute the RTI Act must be strongly defended by all the persons who love India.

Govindan

5 years ago



CNN IBN report:

After the recent embarrassing RTI revelations, the government has now decided to frame new guidelines.

All the RTI replies prepared by junior officers will now have to be vetted by a senior officer, preferably of the Joint Secretary rank.

Among the changes considered, sources say that the RTI replies will have to be brief and should not reveal much.

In order to contain embarrassment for the government, sensitive file notings should first go through the concerned Ministry before being revealed.

REPLY

Govindan

In Reply to Govindan 5 years ago

Dilution of the powers of a Public Authority is Illegal

How can the Government issue such guidelines? It is the Public Authority concerned to give reply to the RTI applicants. It is his responsibility to give clear and proper answer to the applicants. His duties have been well defined in the Act.

Any dilution of the powers of Public authority is illegal unless an amendment to the act is passed by the parliament.

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