Right2Information

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OTN: Seven RTI ammendments that the bureaucracy sought?

Posted by rtiact2005 on August 18, 2006

OTN: Seven RTI ammendments that the bureaucracy sought?

Dear all:
Below are the details of ammendment sought to RTI act
suggested by the cabinet of which file noting, is only widely known.
Please read on.
Best wishes,
Sandip

1) PEOPLE RISE TO SAVE DEMOCRACY
******************************

The Union Cabinet was proposing to bring about 7
amendments in the Right to Information Act, 2005. This Act for the
first time in the history of the country gave its citizens a right to
know how decisions are being taken, how policies are being shaped and
how money is being spent in the name of the people. This is a useful
tool to curb the arbitrary manner in which our bureaucracy and
politicians function as well as for making them accountable to the
people. A new democractic spirit, courage and enthusiasm had awakened
in the people as a result of this Act.

However, feeling that they were being held accountable
for their decisions, the bureaucracy and politicians had moved to
make the Act ineffective.

The Union Cabinet had proposed seven amendments to the RTI Act, 2005.

  1. File notings, Cabinet decisions,
  2. information related to process of examinations or selections was going to be excluded from the Act.
  3. The identities of officers conducting enquiries, giving recommendations, were not be revealed.
  4. In any matter on which decision was under consideration, not just file notings but any kind of information would not be revealed.
  5. The basis for transfers and postings of officials were also to be kept secret.
  6. And most damaging amendment was to take away the independence of Information Commissions. Information Commission were supposed to
  7. enjoy autonomy equal to that of Election Commission. But the proposed amendment said that in matter of any dispute the final decision would be taken by the government. 

These proposed amendments made sure that the Act would loose its teeth.

However, people started protesting strongly against the decision to
bring about the amendments. A dharna is still going on in Delhi since
7th August, 2006 and Anna Hazare is fasting in Maharashtra since 9th
August. Under pressure the government has announced that no
amendments would take place in the RTI, 2005 Act.

Today, by organizing protests in Lucknow, Delhi, Varanasi, Gorakhpur,
Jaipur and Patna we want to warn the government that they dare not
change the Act. The people are going to put up a valiant fight to
save their democratic right.

Whenever democracy has been in danger in this country the
people have risen and taught a lesson to the rulers who have dared to
suppress the people’s rights. Today once again the people have
exhibited the courage to take on the corrupt bureaucracy and
politicians.

From: Campaign to save Right to Information Act
——————————

—————
===========================================

2) Text of the letter sent to Shri Suresh Pachauri, Minister of State
for Personnel, Government of India

To:
Shri Suresh Pachauri
Minister of State for Personnel
Government of India

17 August 2006

Dear Shri Pachauri,
     During our meeting yesterday, we requested you to share with us
those instances or cases, where Government faced problems in the last
11 months due to disclosure of file notings or any other information
under the RTI Act and which prompted these amendments. You informed
us that there were none. You categorically said that the RTI had not
caused any problems in Government’s functioning. Then what prompted
these amendments? According to you, file notings were not supposed to
be disclosed under RTI Act as per Government’s understanding and
intentions. But the law, as passed by the Parliament was interpreted
by Central Information Commission to mean that file notings had to be
disclosed. This created confusion. It was to clear this confusion
that the Government brought in these amendments. You also said that
most of the RTI laws in Indian states and other countries did not
allow disclosure of file notings.
     We feel that the RTI law is fairly clear and does not need any
clarifications, at least at this stage. It is one of the best RTI
laws in the world and should be allowed to evolve. Maybe the
Government did not wish to allow file notings when they drafted the
law and now the law is being interpreted to include file notings. But
if the Government has not faced any problems in the last 11 months,
there is no need to amend the Act and take file notings out. In fact,
many officers have stated that the disclosure of file notings would
actually strengthen the hands of honest officers. There is also no
need for any clarifications. We do not agree that disclosure of file
notings is completely out of bounds under State laws and in other
countries. But in any case, why should we restrict ourselves to the
boundaries set by others. If our RTI law has extended the boundaries
of transparency and the Government has not faced any problems due to
that, let us celebrate that rather than reverse it. Let the rest of
the world learn from us.
     Further, the scope of the proposed amendments is far beyond
just file notings. The Government had considered all arguments which
are being given out in favor of these amendments, when the law was
introduced in Parliament last year. If the Government has not faced
any problem on any account in their implementation, we fail to
understand the reasons for the rethink and need for amendments.
     We have had extensive discussions amongst various groups across
the country. Though there is always a scope for improvement, however,
we feel that a law should not be tinkered with too often. The RTI Act
passed by the Parliament in May 2005 is fairly comprehensive. It
should be allowed to function for a few years. Let us gain
experience. If need be, all of us could then discuss and think of
amendments a few years down the line. But no amendments should be
considered without adequate public consultations.
     You assured us that you would take all our arguments to the
Prime Minister. We again urge the Government to leave the RTI Act
2005 as it is for a few years. This is a historic legislation and
this Government deserves to be congratulated for this. Let some
people within the bureaucracy not be allowed to undo the good work of
this Government.
     With regards,
Yours sincerely,

Madhu Bhaduri            Prashant Bhushan          Nikhil
Dey           Arvind Kejriwal
———————————————————————-
—————-
===========================================

3) News: Amendments will weaken RTI Act
Shillong Times
August 17, 2006

SHILLONG: The Meghalaya Right to Information Movement (MRIM), in tune
with the All India Right to Information Movement, will continue its
protest against the proposed move by the UPA government to amend the
Right to Information Act. The Left parties are also backing the
Movement in their opposition to the amendment.
Addressing a press conference after attending the a protest rally in
New Delhi in protest against the RTI amendment move on Thursday, MRIM
member, Tarun Bharatiya said though the Cabinet had passed a
resolution in favour of RTI amendment, no Bill had yet been tabled in
the Parliament in this regard. The protest will continue until
September 24.
He also wondered as to why the same government, under which tenure
the Act was passed in 2005, was trying to amend the Act. “In the
past, an Act passed under any government’s term was amended only
after a change in power; but in this case, the same government wanted
to amend the Act,” he said.
The clause mentioning “file notings”, which the UPA government wanted
to exempt from the Act except in some social development issues, is
against the people’s interest and it would weaken the Act, he
warned. “File notings” are the list of facts based on which any
particular decision is made by an office or a department.
“If an RTI mover is denied information on the ‘file notings’ then he
would be in dark about the background of any official decision,” Mr
Bharatiya said adding that by going through the “file notings”
corruption by an official could be unearthed.
Giving an example as what may happen if “file notings” is exempted
from the RTI Act, he said in case of the amendment, an examinee
applying for a recheck of the copies of either academic or
competitive examinations would be denied access to the answer scripts.
Besides, the proposed amendment would dilute the power of the Central
and State Information Commission, he said. “Decision of the
government will be final to impose fine upon any officer failing to
provide information sought by an individual and neither the Central
nor the State Information Commission would have any say on the
matter,” he said.
Alleging that corrupt bureaucrats exposed through use of the Act are
behind the proposal for amendment, he said, “Honest bureaucrats, on
the other hand, do not want the amendment as they can defend
themselves through the ‘file notings'”.
Mr. Bharatiya also urged the MPs of the region not to support the
amendment move.

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One Response to “OTN: Seven RTI ammendments that the bureaucracy sought?”

  1. ramesh wasudeo said

    serial six and seven are misconceived. autonomy of ICs not proposed to be compromised. no change is sec 19 & 20, concerned with powers. proposed sub section 18 5) was to increase powers of ICs. proposed sub sec 18 (6) was to give additional ( not substitute) recommendatory powers to ICs for making the process of using the law more effective.

    provisions of sub sec 1,2,3,& 4 of RTI sec 18 remained unaltered and uncompromised. those powers were not taken over by govt.

    certain improvements were done is sec 18 (5). these were generally welcome. sec 18(6) was for providing recommendations alone by ICs to make the law more popular and citizen friendly.

    by no strech of imagination, the govt could take over functions of sec 18 (1), (2), (3), (4) and (5) from ICs. i suggest those in doubt, must read sec 2 (f), (i) & (j), sec 8 and sec 18 minutely, again.

    major damage was sec 2 where the file notings and examination papers were to be taken away from RTI – and through that, perhaps the inspection of files as notings form part of file as provided for in the same sec 2 dealing with records.

    rw

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