Right to Information Act under threat

Please post this on your blog, email and spread the word. The Right to Information Act might be amended to suit the needs of politicians, and we need to spread awareness and prevent a repeat of what they did with the Office of Profit and Delhi Demolitions issues. I've made important portions bold, so you may skim through it.



NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO INFORMATION
NCPRI
PRESS NOTE

There is news that the Cabinet has decided to amend the Right To Information Act to exclude file notings from the Act. NCPRI categorically states that this is a completely retrograde step which seeks to curtail the Citizen’s fundamental right in an unacceptable manner. If file notings are exempted, it is a sure method of obfuscating the existence of arbitrariness in the decision making process, which enables fixing accountability on specific officers. It will encourage corrupt and arbitrary practices and be a sure way to kill the spirit of the Act. The Ministers have been ill-advised in going back on the promise to Indian Citizens of transparency and accountability.

NCPRI and all other Civil Society organizations will strongly oppose this move which encourages opacity in the decision-making process, since this would encourage corrupt practices. We recommend that the Government should stop this move to dilute the Act. Citizens from all strata of the Nation are using to it with great hope and faith to monitor and curb arbitrary and corrupt practices in the Governance.

The preamble to the Act had recognised:

“AND WHEREAS democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Goverments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed;

AND WHEREAS revelation of information in actual practice is likely to conflict with other public interests including efficient operations of the Governments, optimum use of limited fiscal resources and the preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information;

AND WHEREAS it is necessary to harmonise these conflicting interests while preserving the paramountcy of the democratic ideal; …”

Thus it accepts that after careful thought by the Parliament and Citizens, a careful harmonizing has been done of the conflicting interests. It was after a lot of deliberations that this Act was framed, which codifies the Citizen’s fundamental right under Article 19 (1). An elaborate process was undertaken from August 2004 to December 2004, when the bill was first tabled. Since various stakeholders felt that there were some important deficiencies, a Parliamentary Committee was set up in January 2005, which went into an elaborate consultative process with the Government functionaries and Citizens groups. After a meticulous and detailed exercise, the final draft was prepared by the Government and tabled before the Parliament. After due debate, this bill was passed by both houses of Parliament and assent given to it by the President. Making changes in this law, seems to make a mockery of the entire democratic law-making process, the Government’s promise and actions, and the Parliamentary Committee and Citizens who contributed to this law.

NCPRI suggests that the Government desist from attacking this fundamental right of Citizens. Citizens believe this Act will take the Nation towards a true participative Swaraj, and the Government should focus on how to strengthen the implementation of the Act. This move coming in the wake of an all-India, Antibribery Citizen’s Campaign using Right To Information, would send a signal to them, that this is a move to curb their rights, since it threatens certain undesirable practices.

We call on all Indians to join with us to oppose any move to curtail our fundamental right to know and to work together to insist this retrograde step is not take. Citizens and organizations are requested to write to the Prime Minister and all Political parties and register their opposition. Citizens across the Nation should also organize themselves in meetings to explain to others and register their protest against this assault on an important right, which is important for their Swaraj.

Shailesh Gandhi (Satyameva Jayate)
Convenor

Ajit Bhattacharjea; Anjali Bhardwaj; Angela Rangad; Aruna Roy; Arvind Kejriwal; Balraj Puri; Bharat Dogra; Debu Bandhopadhya; Harivansh; Harsh Mander; Jagdeep Chhokar; Jagmohan Singh; Jean Dreze; Maja Daruwala; Nikhil Dey; P Wangchuk; Prabhash Joshi ;Prakash Kardaley; Prashant Bhushan; Prabhash Joshi; V.Suresh; Venkatesh Nayak; Vinay Mahajan; S R Sankaran; Samir Acharya; Sandeep Pande; Trilochan Sastry; Shekhar Singh; Suman Sahai; Vishaish Uppal
Working Committee of NCPRI

NCPRI
C 17A Munirka, New Delhi 110 067, India
Telefax: +91 (0)11 26178048; Phone: 26168759,
email: ncpri.india@gmail.com

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