Right2Information

Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Exempt armed forces from RTI Act: ARC

Posted by rtiact2005 on June 18, 2006

Exempt armed forces from RTI Act: ARC

Ajmer Singh

Sunday, June 18, 2006 (New Delhi):

The Right to Information Act came into force six months back.

And with it, many began expecting even the Indian Army to answer a few questions, such as how many court martials are currently on in the Indian Army?

Or how many of India's Bofors guns have been crippled by a lack of spares?

Or even how much money has the DRDO or Defence and Research and Development Organisation spent since 1984 on developing the main battle tank Arjun?

Now, if the second Administrative Reforms Commission gets to have its way, the armed forces will continue to remain behind a veil of secrecy.

Commission's recommendations

Last week, the commission, headed by Veerappa Moily, submitted its report to the government. And in it was the recommendation:

"The Commission feels that armed forces should be included in the list of exempted organisations (second schedule of the Act) because almost all activities of the Armed forces would be covered under the exemption 8(a)"

Under this exemption, there will be no obligation to provide any information to citizens, which could affect the sovereignty, integrity and interests of India.

So far, only top intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces have been left out of the RTI Act under the Second Schedule of the Act. Now, perhaps even the Army will be included in the list.

And in conversation with NDTV, Veerappa Moily said that if paramilitary forces could be exempted, there was no reason why the Army should not be exempted as well.

Need for transparency

RTI activists, however, are not impressed and insist on greater transparency in the armed forces.

"Their recommendation that armed forces should not be under the purview of the Act is to my mind a faulty recommendation," said Shekhar Singh, Convenor, National Campaign for Right to Information.

"My argument would be, if most of its work is exempt then why do you want to take the organisation out. There is no threat to it," he added.

Activists feel that areas related to the armed forces like finance, personnel policy and even information related to defence deals be covered under the RTI Act.

"Also, apart from security related matters, armed forces is one of the largest employers of the people. Now Supreme Court has held right to information is a fundamental right," said Shekhar Singh, Convenor, National Campaign for Right to Information.

"Why should over a million people be denied their fundamental right to ask question of their own employers?" he added.

Exempted list

RTI activists also feel strongly that only intelligence agencies should be exempted from the RTI Act.

"I think the only two organisations which should be excluded are the IB and RAW and every thing else should be included," said Shekhar Singh, Convenor, National Campaign for Right to Information.

Even six months after the Right to Information Act came into effect, its scope is still not clearly defined.

But if organisations that have so far been shrouded in red tape are kept out of its purview, the Act will soon lose significance.

One Response to “Exempt armed forces from RTI Act: ARC”

  1. RTI form must be more spaceable the space provided by it is not sufficient.while filling RTI security question is creating a lot of problem.it stops the citizen access to information.it is very difficult to file an RTI online.one day i tried 15 times to file an RTI online but every time it failed . then i filled form and sent it by post.

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