Skip to main content

Social activist Aruna Roy seeks urgent discussion with Sonia Gandhi to defer amendment to RTI Act

By Our Representative
Prominent social activist Aruna Roy has written to Sonia Gandhi, UPA chairperson, asking her to urgently hold discussions with right to information (RTI) activists on contention issues on amending the RTI Act before going ahead the proposed amendment which seeks to keep political parties out of the RTI ambit. Enclosing a letter from the co-conveners of the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), she said, “The proposed RTI Amendment Bill should be referred to a Standing Committee for further discussion”, instead of passing it in Parliament.
Roy said, “I had written to you earlier seeking an appointment regarding the proposed amendments to the RTI. Since then much has happened. The amendment bill proposing to exclude political parties from the purview of the RTI has been tabled. Given that there has been no public consultation on the matter, I feel it is even more imperative that the Bill at least be referred to a Standing Committee or a Select Committee of the Parliament to allow for broader consultations and deliberations. It would also offer interested citizens and experts an opportunity to break the increasing polarization between people/civil society groups and political parties on this matter.”
Already, Roy and other activists have held discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the matter on the August 19, 2013, after which he promised that he would discuss with his colleagues to see whether a recommendation could be made to send the Bill to the Standing Committee of Parliament. “We also discussed with him the need to immediately pass long standing accountability legislations such as the Grievance Redressal Bill, Whistleblower Protection Bill and the Lokpal Bill”, Roy informed Gandhi, adding, while there have been “reports in papers that a decision has been taken to send the Bill to the Standing Committee, there is no confirmation from the government.”
On Thursday, Roy said, she has been informed by the Speaker's office that her proposal to defer the proposed amendment of RTI (exempting political parties) and send it to a parliamentary committee for thorough discussion (and participation by public/activists) has been rejected. “This happened due to lack of all-party support in the Lok Sabha's BAC (Business Advisory Committee).” Roy walked out of Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) in May-end, requesting not to renew her association with the top UPA body. Later, she began a movement against the proposed bill to amend the RTI Act.
Roy warned, “Apart from our concern that the RTI Act should not be amended in this fashion we strongly feel that we are losing an important opportunity to ensure financial transparency and accountability in the political structures. A number of sincere and committed political leaders have expressed their deep concerns with the illegitimate influence of money power in the electoral political process.”
She added, “The Election Commission and IT Authorities have already displayed their inability to effectively control this deep-rooted problem. Political parties themselves are unable to do this either. The only hope is to empower the common citizen to do what they have been doing so courageously and creatively with the RTI- fight corruption and the arbitrary use of power through their straightforward questions and determination to get answers. I believe that the least that the political class can do is to take into consideration all other opinions and options before taking a completely arbitrary step of exempting themselves all together from the RTI Act.”
NCPRI letter: The NCPRI in a separate letter to Gandhi said, “The enactment and implementation of the Right to Information Act 2005 is considered one of the most significant achievements of your government. You have spearheaded and supported this landmark legislation throughout- during the course of its passage in Parliament and subsequently when amendments were proposed to it. We are writing to request a meeting with you to discuss the RTI (Amendment) Bill 2013, which is currently in Parliament.”
It added, “In the eight years since its enactment, the RTI Act has enabled the citizens of India to make informed choices and strengthened participatory democracy in the country. The legislation has helped people end a culture of secrecy in governance and enabled Indian democracy to begin to move towards a system of open and transparent government.” The NCPRI’s letter has been signed by its co-conveners Anjali Bhardwaj, Nikhil Dey, Venkatesh Nayak, Bhaskar Prabhu and Rakesh Dubbudu.
Saying that the RTI Act has globally been recognized and heralded as “amongst the most progressive access to information laws in the world”, the letter from NCPRI insisted, “Any amendment that dilutes the people’s right to information would weaken this important avenue of reform, and even undermine the process of realizing constitutional promises. The introduction of the RTI Amendments Bill in Parliament, as a reaction to the recent Central Information Commission order, has raised widespread suspicion among citizens that the political establishment is attempting to cover acts of corruption and arbitrary use of power.”
Pointing out that this belief is being further reinforced by the fact that there have been no public consultations on the amendments, the letter said, “Since the RTI Amendment Bill has already been tabled in Parliament, we urge you to prevent the Bill from being put to vote in a hasty manner. We request you to ensure that the Amendment Bill is referred to a Standing Committee of Parliament or a Select Committee, to facilitate widespread public consultation on the issue.”
The letter concludes, “You will recall that the government made an assurance in Parliament in 2009 that the RTI Act will not be amended without public consultation. It would be a travesty of this assurance if such an important issue were to be passed without deliberation and consultation in the Parliamentary Standing Committee. We are confident that you will be responsive to peoples’ appeal and once again protect the RTI Act. We are sure that a process of dialogue and deliberation both within, and outside parliament, would prevent the dilution of the Right to Information law.”

Comments

TRENDING

Unlike Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India: Ukrainian scholar tells 'Indian friends'

Counterview Desk In an open letter to "dear Indian friends", Anastasia Piliavsky, born in Odessa, Ukraine, studied at Boston and Oxford Universities (on a Rhodes Scholarship), and now teaches at King’s College, London, has said that she faces "deep moral dilemma", personally and professionally, over the "astonishingly unified Indian response to the war in Ukraine." Based on her interaction with a "number of thoughtful and caring Indian friends", in this letter, she says, she is "reeling at the ubiquitous silence at, justifications of or outright support for Putin’s terror, which now prevails in India, at the ubiquitous #IStandWithPutin and #istandwithrussia hashtags." She insists, India must understand, "Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is no friend to India. Soviet leaders, beginning with (the Ukrainian) Nikita Khrushchev – who declared hindi rusi bhai bhai – built up deep political and cultural exchange with India." Text : I

Teesta treaty? Modi sends ball to Mamata's court amidst Hasina's mango diplomacy

By Samina Akhter*  Most Bangladeshi and India media reports say that the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has received 600 kg of mangoes from Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as part of her "mango-hilsa diplomacy." Hasina also delivered mangoes to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month, according to the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in India. In all, 1,200 kg of Amrapali mangoes were delivered to the residences of the President and the Prime Minister of India. According to a Bangladesh's deputy high commission official in Kolkata, a few more chief ministers in the eastern region will likely receive similar gifts. Last year, not only President Kovind and Prime Minister Modi, but also the chief ministers of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam also received mangoes from Prime Minister Hasina. Hasina delivered mangoes from Rajshahi, including kinds like Golapkhas and Amrapali, as it is the peak season for the delectable fruit in

Technocratic globalism, tyranny? Health Ministry warned: bill to 'enslave' Indians

Sandeep Pandey, Tushar Gandhi By Rosamma Thomas*  Union of Concerned Citizens, a group comprising Magsaysay Award winner Prof Sandeep Pandey, human rights activist Tushar Gandhi, former judge of the Bombay High Court BG Kolse Patil, pediatrician Dr Jacob Puliyel and several renowned Indian citizens have written to the Union Health Minister cautioning him against tabling the draft Public Health Bill in the Monsoon Session of Parliament. “The Public Health (Prevention, Control And Management Of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism And Disasters) Bill, 2017 and a Prospective Bill of 2022 as discussed in news articles, is straightforwardly violative of Fundamental Rights of the citizens of India and therefore, Ultra Vires of the Indian Constitution. It contravenes several International Treaties and Conventions including the Nuremberg Treaty of 1947 which was enacted to ensure that no country would repeat such inhuman medical atrocities on fellow human beings”, the 12-page letter reads. “Strangely, t

Cops 'refuse to register' complaint after BSF shot landless worker off Bangla border

By Our Representative  Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), and national convener, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), in a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), referring to the incident of “firing and execution” of a poor Muslim youth, has alleged that the 26 year old was was shot at “without giving any warning” one and half kilometers inside the Indian territory from Bangladesh border by an on- duty Border Security Force (BSF) personnel. Stating that the person, Ruhul Mondal, belonged to an Other Backward Class (OBC), and hailed from Ramnarayan Para village under Sagarpara police station in Murshidabad district, West Bengal, Roy in his representation said, the BSF person who shot at him is “attached with Singpara Border Outpost, 141 Battalion”, underlining, the BSF has now floated “self defense theory” to cover up its operation. According to the BSF officials, the incident took place in the jute fields in

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Protesters demand release of Teesta Setalvad, Sreekumar, seek review of SC order

By Our Representative  Protests broke out across India on June 27 following Teesta Setalvad’s arrest demanding her immediate release. Sabrang India , a site run by Setalvad, claimed she was “arrested on trumped-up charges after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition moved by Zakia Jafri demanding an investigation into the larger conspiracy behind the 2002 Gujarat violence.” The protesters also demanded release of former DGP Gujarat police RB Sreekumar, also arrested simultaneously. The protests were preceded by over 2,200 people from across the globe signing a statement demanding their immediate release. Leading signatories such as People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) general secretary V Suresh, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) convenor Medha Patkar, former Naval chief Admiral Ramdas. “The state has used the observations made in the judgment to falsely and vindictively prosecute those who had struggled for justice even in the face of state callousness and complicit

Electoral bonds scheme 'compromises' voluntary nature PM relief fund donations

By Rosamma Thomas*  The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) is meant to collect voluntary donations from the general public, either individuals or organizations, to enable assistance to people in times of natural disaster, or for expensive medical treatment. That fundamental voluntary character of the fund, however, has changed in recent years.  The gazette notification of January 2018 announcing the Electoral Bond scheme states, in Clause 12 (2): “The amount of bonds not encashed within the validity period of fifteen days shall be deposited by the authorized bank to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund”. The Union government has, thus, through notification, directed funds to be deposited into what was meant to be purely voluntary. Commodore Lokesh Batra, who has been campaigning for transparency in government functioning, holds that once a gazette notification has been issued directing that funds be deposited into the PMNRF, the character of the whole fund has changed,

Bulldozing houses in UP: India isn't Israel, Muslims living here 'aren't Palestinians'

By Naveen Tewari, Sandeep Pandey*  A recent full front page of the advertisement by a Bhartiya Janata Party government declares, 'House is not just a word. It is a place where power to dream comes and aspirations are fulfilled. Home is much about dignity and security than it is about shelter.' It further goes on to quote Narendra Modi, 'It is my dream that every Indian has a pucca house by 2022.' The occasion was dedication of houses built by a private builder Balaji to the poor. Having witnessed over the past few days the now iconic picture of a bulldozer running down the Prayagraj house of parents of female Muslim student and activist Afreen Fatima, who participated in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens protests, one is almost tempted to look for a fine print at the bottom of the page to the effect that the promise of house is subject to the condition that one doesn't participate in any anti-government protest otherwis

Church in India: Rooted in patriarchy, Pope Francis-initiated reforms remain on paper

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  It is ‘Laity Sunday’ once again on June 26! A time for the Church once again to introspect and to see whether the much flaunted ‘lay collaboration’ actually exists in reality or not! In a highly clerical and patriarchal Church, which has stubbornly refused to accept in toto the changes envisaged by Vatican II and as desired by the then Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, introducing any reforms is certainly very difficult. But Pope Francis, in his typical style, is apparently succeeding in doing so! On March 19, 2022 (Feast of St Joseph) the ninth anniversary of the formal inauguration of his pontificate, he published Praedicate Evangelium (Preach the Gospel),his new constitution for the restructuring of the Vatican Curia. It was a reform that was promised at the beginning of his pontificate; several aspects of it have already been implemented over the years. The final document, however, does make some significant changes and provides the vision of a Curia that

'Highly abnormal': AltNews journo's arrest suggests 'deterioration in media freedom'

By Bharat Dogra*  Leading media organizations have come out in strong support of recently arrested journalist Mohammed Zubair. These organizations include, among others, the Editors Guild of India, the Press Club of India, the Delhi Union of Journalists and DIGIPUB, a platform for several important digital media organizations. All these organizations have condemned the recent arrest of the noted journalist and demanded his immediate release. While leading human rights organizations and political parties have also made somewhat similar statements, the strong support of media organizations is particularly important as the effort of the authorities has been to try to present the arrested journalist as someone who has been indulging in irresponsible journalism.  In such a situation the support of those media organizations who are familiar with his work and who are most capable of judging the quality of his work is very important. In this context it is important that some media organization