Right to Information – Master key to good governance

RTI law calls for scrapping of Official Secrets Act

Posted by rtiact2005 on June 17, 2006

RTI law calls for scrapping of Official Secrets Act
Bhaskar Roy
[ Tuesday, June 13, 2006 12:38:22 amTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]


NEW DELHI: It will be difficult for any government in future to deny information by taking shelter behind the smokescreen of the Official Secrets Act. The basic document of the newly legislated Right to Information Act is making a strong recommendation for scrapping the controversial law.

To be made public in the next few days by the Administrative Reforms Commission, the document argues that free flow of information and a law denying access to it are mutually exclusive.

The document has proposed a structure for the Information Commission similar to that of the Election Commission a handful of central information commissioners headed by a chief commissioner. The state level official would be also designated information commissioner.

In a departure from the EC model, however, the document is likely to suggest that some of the central information commissioners be based at the regional centres instead of being concentrated in Delhi.

This, the document drafters perceive, will facilitate proper dissemination of information ensuring success of the setup.

The collegium for selecting the central information commissioners will comprise the prime minister, the chief justice of India and the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

For the commissioner at the state level, the selecting authority will rest with the chief minister, the leader of Opposition in the assembly and the chief justice of the high court.

The decision to involve the Opposition leader is intended to broadbase the selecting authority and make the institution more acceptable to the entire political spectrum.

However, the recommendation to do away with the Official Secrets Act is likely to evoke opposition from sections within the bureaucracy as well as the political establishment.

On a number of occasions in the past the government of the day has resorted to the Act to deny information considered both sensitive and classified.

In another major recommendation the document proposes that at no level bureaucracy's representation within the information commission should be more than 50%.


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