Right2Information

Right to Information – Master key to good governance

Activists oppose changes to RTI

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 4, 2006

Activists oppose changes to RTI 8/4/2006 12:43:59 AM
– By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, Aug. 3: Right to Information activists strongly opposed the proposed amendments to the act and circulated a draft of an official bill to amend the law which would render the information commissions as mere advisory bodies.

“The proposed amendments to the RTI law do not just stop at blocking access to file notings but also recommends taking away the independence of the information commissions,” Mr Shekhar Singh of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information told the media here.

RTI activists Anna Hazare, Aruna Roy, Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan addressed the media where copies of the purported draft of the official bill were also released.

One of the proposed amendments is to keep the decision-making process out of the reach of public scrutiny. “Information regarding any proposal would be available only after a decision is taken. The amendments also propose to remove access to material on the basis of which decisions were taken by the council of ministers,” Mr Bhushan said.

If the amendments come into force the common man will have access only to Cabinet decisions, which are anyway in the public domain, and will not have access to Cabinet notes, he said.

The RTI activists said the amendments were approved by the Cabinet were done under pressure from a lobby of Union secretaries after they filed an application with the information commissioner seeking details about the suitability criteria for secretarial appointments.

They said that the government was going ahead with the amendments brushing aside “mass protests”.

The amendments also propose to block the identities of the persons who have made the file notings, made inspection, gave recommendations or tendered advice or opinion, Mr Singh said, adding that the reason cited for the move was to make the “decision-making process more accountable”.

Recent Magsaysay awardee Arvind Kejriwal said several former top bureaucrats, including former Union home secretary Madhav Godbole, had written open letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to keep file notings within the purview of the act.

“Making the notings on the file open to people can be the single-most effective check on the rampant corruption both at the administrative and political levels,” Mr Godbole said in his letter to the Prime Minister.

Mr Kejriwal also said the documents seek to take away access to all documents and records which contain any legal advice, opinion, observation or recommendation during the decision-making process prior to the executive decision or policy formulation.

“The entire exercise to amend the law is to mislead the people. The government is thinking of its own benefit,” Mr Hazare said.

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