PM calls for limiting RTI to protect privacy

Concerned over frivolous usage of transparency law

PM calls for limiting RTI to protect privacy

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday gave voice to the concerns raised regarding possible infringement of personal privacy while providing information under the Right to Information Act.

He pointed out that a fine balance was required to be maintained between the RTI and the right to privacy.

Addressing the seventh annual convention of information commissioners here, the prime minister stressed the citizens’ right to know should definitely be circumscribed if disclosure of information encroaches upon someone’s personal privacy. “But where to draw the line is a complicated question…The issue of a separate legislation on privacy is under consideration of an expert group under Justice A P Shah (retired chief justice of Delhi high court.)”

Talking of concerns, Singh said there were “some obvious areas of concerns”  about the way the RTI Act was being used presently. “There are concerns about frivolous and vexatious use of the Act in demanding information the disclosure of which cannot possibly serve any public purpose.” 

He added: “Rights, of course, cannot stand in isolation and must always be accompanied by reciprocal obligations…This important legislation should not be only about criticising, ridiculing and running down public authorities. It should be more about promoting transparency and accountability, spreading information and awareness and empowering our citizens…” 

Observing that the RTI Act has been in force in India for seven years now, Singh said by all accounts it has contributed in very large measure to our efforts for ensuring greater probity, greater transparency and greater accountability in the work of public authorities.

“In the last year itself close to 10 lakh people, in all parts of the country, sought information from the Central government authorities under this legislation. Today, citizens everywhere feel empowered because of the Act. It is a simple and uncomplicated legislation, easy to understand and use. And this I think is one of its major strengths.”

He said it was a pointer to the success of the RTI that only about 4.5 per cent of the applications that were filed before Central government authorities reach the Information Commissions for adjudication. It is estimated that out of the 20,000 appeals and complaints disposed of by the Central Information Commission every year on the average, only a couple of hundred cases a year have been challenged in courts, he added.

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