Activists concerned over RTI Act amendment

Say the amendment may dilute the powers of Information Commissioners

Amid concerns that the passage of the Right to Information (RTI) Act (Amendment) Bill by the Lok Sabha will dilute the powers of Information Commissioners, RTI activists say the amendment will accelerate the attempts of the State and Central governments to subvert the Act.

While the passage of the amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha is seen as an attempt to make the Act toothless in the long run, the RTI activists say the amendment seeks to encroach upon Parliament’s power to determine the salaries of the Information Commissioners and the tenure fixed by the RTI Act for Information Commissioners at the Central and the State levels.

‘Bid to sabotage Act’

“The passage of the amendment Bill by the National Democratic Alliance government is not the first attempt by the authorities to sabotage the RTI Act,” said T. Asafali, former Director General of Prosecutions, who had been in the forefront of the campaign to popularise the RTI Act in the State after its enactment in 2005.

The Centre’s amendment was to ensure control over the Information Commissioners for diluting the provisions in the RTI Act, he said, adding attempts to dilute the Act were also made by the State government.

Referring to a recent order issued by the government that has since been impugned by the High Court, he said the order stated that “all documents/information related to inter-State matters and documents/information which the government feels privy and the disclosure of the same may hamper the interests of the State shall be exempted from revealing to the public even on request under the RTI Act.”

Through that order, the State government was seeking to usurp the powers of Parliament and widen the scope of exemption from disclosure of information under Section 8 of the Act, said Mr. Asafali, who is State president of the Lawyers Congress.

‘Making it irrelevant’

“Those who are ruling are least interested in protecting the RTI Act,” said P. Sharafudheen, Thalassery-based RTI activist.

The amendment would render the Act irrelevant, he added.

With the amendment, the government could enforce control over the Information Commissioners, as it has the powers to decide their tenure, he said.

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