Activists against dilution of RTI Act

Jayaram Venkatesan explained that if the changes are made in the provisions of the RTI Act, public cannot seek information relating to property values of officials, details about bidders and others, which would pave way for corruption
Representative Image
Representative Image

CHENNAI: Alleging the central government of diluting the provisions of Right To Information Act, various RTI activists across the country, including Jayaram Venkatesan of Arappor Iyakkam, urged the government to adopt an extensive pre-legislative consultation process before passing Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022.

In a joint representation to Ashwini Vaishnaw, minister of electronics and information technology, the activists pointed out that the bill seeks to amend key provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005 which will impact millions of citizens who employ it every year to seek greater transparency and accountability from public authorities.

"Given the wide ramifications of the draft Bill, it is crucial that it be put through a more rigorous and extensive process of public consultation. While MEITY (ministry of electronics and information technology) has invited feedback on the draft Bill, the manner and procedure of inviting public feedback does not do justice to the established principles of pre-legislative consultation, " the representation said.

It further added that the Pre-legislative Consultation Policy adopted by the Union Government in 2014 mandates that all draft legislation be placed in the public domain for at least 30 days, inviting public comments and a summary of feedback and comments received be made available on the concerned ministry's website prior to sending it for Cabinet approval.

"Contrary to these minimum standards for public consultation on draft legislations, the note by MEITY states that submissions will not be disclosed and held in fiduciary capacity, to enable persons submitting feedback to provide the same freely. No public disclosure of the submissions will be made."

Activists also urged the ministry to ensure dissemination of the draft bill through various modes, and in multiples languages and put in place multiple online and offline options for providing feedback. "Any arbitrary pre-conditions of secrecy around the consultation process must be done away with, " it added.

Jayaram Venkatesan explained that if the changes are made in the provisions of the RTI Act, public cannot seek information relating to property values of officials, details about bidders and others, which would pave way for corruption.

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