Govt amends RTI Act to correct names of 2 exempted intel units

Govt amends RTI Act to correct names of 2 exempted intel units

Govt amends RTI Act to correct names of 2 exempted intel units

Nearly nine years after the Right to Information Act came into force, the government has made changes in the Act to correct the names of two intelligence organisations exempted from providing information under the transparency law.

The 'Aviation Research Centre of the Cabinet Secretariat' and 'Special Frontier Force of the Cabinet Secretariat' have been incorporated in the list of exempted organsations under the RTI Act, as per the amendments notified by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) late last month.

Earlier, the names mentioned in the Act were Aviation Research Centre (ARC) and Special Frontier Force (SFF).

Though the DoPT did not offer any clarification as to why the Act was amended, sources said the changes have been made to rightly show allegiance of the two organisations to the Cabinet Secretariat.

Both the ARC and SFF are among over 20 intelligence and security agencies including IB, RAW and CBI exempted from providing information under the RTI Act to any citizen.

"The ARC and the SFF do not have dedicated websites. Except for a mention about their inclusion in the list of notified organisations under Schedule 2 of the RTI Act in reply to a query in the Lok Sabha in 2005, no other question has been asked about these organisations in Parliament during the last 15 years," said Venkatesh Nayak, who works with  the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an NGO.

According to the 2012-2013 annual report of the Central Information Commission, the Cabinet Secretariat is said to have rejected only 18 RTI applications under Section 24.

"It is not clear whether ARC and SFF received any RTI applications at all last year," he said, raising questions on the government move to amend the RTI Act about nine years after it came into force.

The ARC is the air wing of external intelligence agency RAW. The SFF is said to have been raised at the end of the Indo-China war in 1962.