Right to Information – Master key to good governance

UPA weakens RTI Act with an amendment

Posted by rtiact2005 on July 20, 2006

UPA weakens RTI Act with an amendment



NDTV Correspondent

Thursday, July 20, 2006 (New Delhi):

The UPA government has weakened the Right To Information Act, seen as one of its biggest achievements.

The Union Cabinet approved an amendment to the RTI Act, wherein it decided to exempt file notings of officials from the Act.

RTI activists had been protesting the exclusion of file notings as these were critical in forming policy and taking decisions, which affect the lives of people.

The only file notings that can be accessed now through the right of information will be in developmental and social issues.

Aruna Roy, the prime mover of the right to information campaign, says the government’s decision is a setback.

“This is completely unreasonable. The act has been in force for six months now and every single appeal has been judiciously dealt with. There could be no problems in Section 8,” said Roy.

“The basis for transparency and disclosure, which was corruption in government, will now take advantage of this to hide all the necessary notings,” Roy added.

The government’s decision comes just five days after a countrywide campaign to popularise the RTI ended.

Sixth Pay Commission

The Cabinet also cleared the setting up of the Sixth Pay Commission, which will pave the way for new salaries for over 55 lakh central government employees.

The Commission has been given a time period of 18 months to submit its report.

Central government employees had threatened to go on a nationwide strike from August 10 if the commission was not set up.

However, BJP ruled states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have opposed the setting up of the commission.

Other crucial proposals cleared by the Cabinet are the Wildlife Amendment Bill for a Tiger Task force with the proposal to set up a Wildlife Crime bureau and more power for wildlife officials.

One thing that did not come up in the meeting was the controversial Office of Profit Bill.

President APJ Abdul Kalam had returned the Bill objecting to the retrospective clause in the Bill and sought changes in it.

Disqualification petitions

The move is crucial for at least 43 MPs, including the Speaker of the Lower House Somnath Chatterjee, who face disqualification petitions on the issue.

The Law Ministry has suggested that no changes be made to the original draft of the Bill.

Opinion is however divided within the government and UPA-Left alliance as some sections feel that returning the Bill without incorporating the three suggestions made by the President will tantamount to a confrontation with him.

The government is believed to be considering all options before clearing it in the Cabinet.

Some sources said the President’s suggestions on the Bill might be rejected and the reference might be taken up at the Rajya Sabha first.


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