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Don't dilute RTI

Last Updated : 12 October 2011, 15:15 IST
Last Updated : 12 October 2011, 15:15 IST

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The highest achievement of the UPA-I government was perhaps the enactment in 2005 of the right to information law which redefined the relationship between citizens and government.

After six years, the government seems to be developing second thoughts on  the legislation, judging from the comments being made on it by ministers. Corporate affairs minister Veerappa Moily has found that it transgresses into the independent functioning of the government.

Law minister Salman Khurshid thinks that misuse of the act has adversely affected the “institutional efficacy and efficiency” of the government. There are demands from  some ministries to keep the Prime Minister’s Office outside the purview of the law, obviously as a result of the inconvenience caused by the recent disclosure of a finance ministry note. There seems to be a design behind the demands.

The very fact that the government is now troubled by the citizen’s enhanced right is reason for continuance of the law and even strengthening it. For the first time citizens can demand information, scrutinise decisions and interrogate the government on their basis.

Many of details of the recent scams relating to the Commonwealth Games, Adarsh housing society and the 2G spectrum allotment   came to light because of the use of the right to information. It is not just the big scams that were unravelled.

Thousands of public spirited persons were able to find out how their small neighbourhood government offices worked. Some of them even had to pay with their lives for using their right. It is wrong to claim that the prospect of disclosure of information in future delays decision-making and forces officials to be overcautious. They will in fact be forced to take the right decisions and own responsibility for them. This is what good governance needs. There are enough safeguards in the law against frivolous demands and disclosure of information which is not in public interest.

The government seems to have been unnerved by the genie of citizens’ power which was bottled up for decades. Those who say that the law is obstructionist and hampers the functioning of government should correct their notions about governance, shaped by entrenched practices of secrecy and confidentiality.

Greater transparency will ensure greater accountability of the government and expand the democratic space. The government should desist from any attempt to amend the act and to dilute and weaken its provisions. The need is actually to strengthen it in areas like increased protection for RTI activists.

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Published 12 October 2011, 15:15 IST

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