Dharna on Proposed amendment in RTI act.
Posted by rtiact2005 on August 9, 2006
Today on 8th August 2006, Magsaysay Award Winner, Dr. Sandeep Pandey sat on Dharna at jantar Mantar, Delhi to protest against the proposed amendment of RTI act. The copy of the amendment and the press note along with the statement on the proposed amendment is enclosed herewith.
Divya Jyoti Jaipuriar
CAMPAIGN TO SAVE THE RTI ACT
The Campaign to save the RTI Act went on an indefinite dharna on August 7th. The dharna began with a performance by Euphoria, followed by a march to the Parliament where 2000 students submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister.
On August 8th, Magsasay Awardee Shri Sandeep Pandey sat on an indefinite hunger strike in support of the Campaign. Several people from different walks of life including mazdoors, kisans, professionals, students, groups and individuals from Delhi, Rajasthan, UP and Madhya Pradesh joined the protest at the dharna sthal at Jantar Mantar.
The protests began with the slogan – No RTI No Vote followed by a series of songs and slogans. Puppets and mask performances were also carried out at the dharna sthal. Over 77 people came to sign up in support of the Campaign and also contributed Rs. 1,250 in support of the dharna. The Delh of School of Economic also came forward to express solidarity with the campaign and contributed Rs. 964.
Justice J.C Verma (Ex Chief Justice of India and Ex Chairman National Human Rights Commission), Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer (Former Judge of the Supreme Court of India) and, Justice P. B. Sawant (Former Judge of the Supreme Court of India) issued a joint statement calling the proposed amendment “unconstitutional”. They said,
“…After all, public power is derived from ‘We the People of India……’. Its exercise must be subject to legitimate scrutiny by the People, who are the source of that power. The people have a participatory role in a Republican democracy as they are “the keepers of the Constitution”. In such circumstances there is no justification for such an amendment to the RTI Act which seeks to unreasonably and unconstitutionally restrict the people’s right to know what their public servants are doing on their behalf. “
The Campaign plans to conduct a series of activities to put pressure not to allow any dilutions in the RTI Act 2005. The activities include performances by different groups/individuals, exhibitions on RTI and a series of meetings, seminars, workshops, public lectures on RTI.
For more information contact:
Nikhil – 9818782996; Arvind – 20507339; Manish – 9868875898;
Divyajyoti- 9868002365; Suchi – 9811 333041
Statement on the proposed amendment to the Right to Information Act
The Cabinet has reportedly approved far reaching amendments to the Right to Information Act 2005, which among other things seeks to restrict access to “file notings” and allow access to only “substantial notings relating to social and developmental issues”. File notings are the recording of the views and reasons by various officials for or against any proposed decision.
It is settled that the ‘right to information’, implicit under Art. 19 (1) (a) is untrammeled constitutional guarantee, subject only to the ‘reasonable restrictions’ validly imposed by legislation under Art. 19 (2) which allows reasonable restrictions on the right in the interest of “the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offence”. Any restriction imposed on the people’s ‘right to information’ by the RTI Act must fall within the ambit of Art. 19 (2). Section 8 of the RTI Act already allows restriction of the right to information in the interest of all the factors mentioned in Article 19(2).
The Scheme in Art. 19 (2) does not permit an omnibus restriction, permitting the ‘right to information’ only under a few specified heads. This is the first infirmity in the proposed amendment. Apart from this, there is a greater substantive infirmity in the restriction proposed to disclosure of the ‘file notings’ generally.
It is well settled that all State actions must conform to the rule of non-arbitrariness to satisfy the requirement of Art. 14. It follows that all decisions must be based on a discernible principle, and cogent reasons. A reasoned order/decision is the assurance against nepotism, arbitrariness and corruption. Reasons provide an internal check against arbitrariness in the decision making process. Mere information of the decision without disclosure of the reasons for it and the decision making process is not enough to permit scrutiny of the decision made, which even otherwise may become known. The very purpose of the ‘right to information’ would be frustrated without the knowledge of the ‘reasons’ for the decision, emerging from the ‘file notings’. Except for information which can, or needs to be withheld in the interests of the specified heads under Art. 19 (2), there is no reason or authority to permit exclusion of the remaining information in the form of ‘file notings’ or otherwise.
The stated apprehension that disclosure of all ‘file notings’ would deter the honest persons involved in the process from expressing their candid opinion is misconceived. The fact is the opposite. The assurance of public scrutiny or transparency in government business will motivate the honest to be frank and candid in the expression of their views in writing. At the same time it will deter others from not acting honestly for fear of exposure.
Transparency or openness is an accepted principle of democracy and good governance. A distinguished American Judge, Louis Brandeis had said: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and electricity is the best policeman”. The ‘Seven Principles of Public Life’ indicated in the Lord Nolan Committee’s Report on Standards in Public Life, include: Objectivity, Accountability and Openness.
After all, public power is derived from ‘We the People of India……’. Its exercise must be subject to legitimate scrutiny by the People, who are the source of that power. The people have a participatory role in a Republican democracy as they are “the keepers of the Constitution”. In such circumstances there is no justification for such an amendment to the RTI Act which seeks to unreasonably and unconstitutionally restrict the people’s right to know what their public servants are doing on their behalf.
Justice J.S Verma (Ex Chief Justice of India and Ex Chairman National HR Commission)
Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer (Former Judge of the Supreme Court of India)
Justice P. B. Sawant (Former Judge of the Supreme Court of India)
|Attachment: 17k (application/msword) Pressnote_8_Aug.doc|
|Attachment: 20k (application/msword) Statement of judges on the RTI amendment.doc|