Skip to main content

RTI draft rules: Govt of India seeking to "coopt" Central Information Commission, wants to appoint its secretary

Aruna Roy
By Our Representative
The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), whose campaign pushed India towards the Right to Information (RTI) Act in 2005, has suggested that the recently-proposed RTI draft rules virtually proposes to allow the Government of India (GoI) to coopt the Central Information Commission (CIC), the RTI watchdog of GoI.
Taking strong exception, in this context, to the proposed appointment of secretary to the CIC by the GoI in the new draft rules, NCPRI says, they “undermine the authority of the CIC by giving the Central Government the power of appointing the secretary to the CIC.”
NCPRI insists, “The CIC should have the freedom to appoint officers of its choice through a transparent process”, adding, “secretary” to CIC should mean “an officer so appointed by the CIC”, adding, the following words should inserted into the new rules: “The CIC shall appoint an officer not below the rank of Additional Secretary to the Government of India as Secretary to the Commission.”
NCPRI is led, among others, by well-known social activists Aruna Roy, who was a member of the National Advisory Council (NAC) chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, till May 2013, when she resigned over non-implementation of NAC recommendation to implement minimum wages for work offered under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).
Taking exception to yet another change, NCPRI believes that the requirement for an aggrieved person to file an appeal to the CIC – online or offline – accompanied “duly authenticated and verified” documents, is strange, particularly when “anywhere between 40 and 60 lakh RTI applications “are filed every year in India” and majority of them are by “the poor and marginalized”.
Criticizing the authentication requirement for not being “people-friendly” and “burdened with legalistic procedures”, NCPRI says, the “duly authenticated and verified” requirement should be “limited to self-attestation by the appellant.”
Objecting to the rule allowing RTI appeals to be returned to the applicants because of certain deficiencies, NCPRI says, “People, especially the marginalised, reach CIC after a lot of hardship and a long wait”, and therefore, the CIC should “facilitate and assist people in the process of registering their appeals, rather than summarily returning them due to a deficiency.”
Regarding the proposed rule allowing appellants to withdraw their appeals, NCPRI says, this appears “beyond the law”, as “given the Indian reality where RTI applicants are at times harassed, threatened, physically attacked or even killed, such provisions will provide a perverse incentive to vested interests to silence the information seeker through coercion or physical harm.”
Also rejecting the proposal to allow CIC to drop the pleas if the applicant dies, NCPRI quotes CIC resolution dated September 13, 2011, which says, “If it receives a complaint regarding assault or murder of an information seeker, it will examine the pending RTI applications of the victim and order the concerned department(s) to publish the requested information suo motu on their website as per the provisions of law.”
Critical of such hurdles for seeking information, NCPRI says, “Despite more than 11 years of the implementation of the RTI Act in India, in most public authorities no mechanism to assist information seekers has been put in place. Therefore, it is suggested that Information and Facilitation Centres be set up in each public authority.”
Referring to the pleas related to cases of life and liberty, which are heard within 48 hours, NCPRI insists, “There is no concomitant time-frame for disposal of first appeal, second appeal or complaints in cases where information is not provided within 48 hours”, insisting, “Appropriate rules should be framed with a clearly defined procedure and time frame.”

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

Did Modi promote Dholavira, a UNESCO site now, as Gujarat CM? Facts don't tally

By Rajiv Shah  As would generally happen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet – that not only was he “absolutely delighted” with the news of UNESCO tag to Dholavira, but he “ first visited ” the site during his “student days and was mesmerised by the place” – is being doubted by his detractors. None of the two tweets, strangely, even recalls once that it’s a Harappan site in Gujarat.

Labelling a Jesuit a Marxist? It's like saying if you use a plane, you become American

Jesuits: Cedric Prakash, Stan Swamy By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ* A thirteen- fourteen-year-old has many dreams! That's an impressionable age; at the cusp of finishing school. It is also a time when one tastes a different kind of freedom: to go for camps with boys of your own age (not with ones family). Such camps and outings were always enjoyed to the hilt. The ones, however, which still remain etched in my memory are the mission camps to the Jesuit missions in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Giant conglomerates 'favoured': Whither tribal rights for jal-jungle-jameen?

Prafull Samantara By Mohammad Irshad Ansari*  The struggle for “Jal, Jungle and Jameen” has been a long-drawn battle for the tribal communities of India. This tussle was once again in the limelight with the proposed diamond mining in the Buxwaha forest of Chhatarpur (Madhya Pradesh). The only difference in this movement was the massive social media support it gained, which actually seems to tilt the scale for the tribal people in a long time.

If not Modi, then who? Why? I (an ordinary citizen) am there! Main hoon naa!

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The number of women ministers is doubled in early July from the first term after cabinet reshuffle by the present government led by Narendra Modi. While there were 06 women ministers in the previous term, this term there are 11. The previous two governments led by Dr Manmohan Singh had 10 women ministers in each tenure. Are these number of women ministers something to rejoice in the near 75 years of independence? Yes maybe, if we think that things are slowly improving in the patriarchal system. This change is less likely to achieve gender balance in the parliament otherwise we require more than 11 as per the 33% reservation . This change is also less likely because the men politicians’ inability to handle the country’s mess is becoming more and more evident and especially during the corona crisis. Seems, the addition of more women ministers may be a result of the recent assembly elections where women played a decisive role in the election results. For example

Effluent discharge into deep sea? Modi told to 'reconsider' Rs 2275 crore Gujarat project

Counterview Desk  In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, well-known Gujarat-based environmentalist, Mahesh Pandya of the Paryavaran Mitra, has protested against the manner in with the Gujarat government is continuing with its deep sea effluent disposal project despite environmental concerns.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Gujarat govt gender insensitive? Cyclone package for fisherfolk 'ignores' poor women

By Our Representative A memorandum submitted to the Gujarat government by various fisherfolk associations of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat under the leadership of Ahmedabad NGO Centre for Social Justice's senior activist Arvind Khuman, who is based in Amreli, has suggested that the relief package offered to the fishermen affected by the Tauktae cyclone is not only inadequate, it is also gender insensitive.

Debt bondage, forced labour, sexual abuse in Gujarat's Bt cottonseed farms: Dutch study

By Rajiv Shah  A just-released study, sponsored by a Netherlands-based non-profit, Arisa , “Seeds of Oppression Wage sharecropping in Bt cottonseed production in Gujarat, India”, has said that a new form of bondage, or forced labour, exists in North India’s Bt cottonseed farms, in which bhagiyas, or wage sharecroppers, are employed against advances and are then often required to work for years together “without regular payment of wages.”

Tussle between Modi-led BJP govt, Young India 'key to political battle': NAPM

Counterview Desk  In its month-long campaign, civil rights network National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM) carried out what it called Young People's Political Persecution and Resistance in “solidarity with all comrades facing political persecution and remembering human rights defender Stan Swamy…”