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No takers for PM’s call for RTI Act review 
Scope must never be limited; it needs to be expanded, say experts 
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, October 15
The Prime Minister’s call for a critical relook at the Right to Information (RTI) Act found no resonance in the two-day convention of the Central Information Commission which discussed vital aspects related to the scope of the law.

The convention, attended by information commissioners and RTI activists from across the country, ended today with a clear message to the government that there was no need for any amendment to the Act and its scope must never be limited.

The PM had yesterday asked the experts to deliberate on the need to curb vexatious demands for information, address privacy concerns and revisit exemption clauses to see if they needed change.

On all these pointers, the House voted for status quo, saying the law was good enough as it was and needed no change at the moment. Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra summed up the deliberations, “There was unanimity on the fact that there is no need to amend the RTI Act and that its scope must never be limited. In fact, it needs to be expanded.”

The experts also agreed that the exemption clause under the Act was enough and did not need to be enhanced in scope. The clause disallows sharing of information pertaining to security and intelligence agencies. Recently, the government placed the CBI under Schedule 2 of the Act, exempting it but the experts today said there’s no logic behind exempting the CBI as it dealt with investigations of corruption issues.

“The Ministry which recommended CBI’s exemption is itself not exempt under the Act,” ML Sharma, Central Information Commissioner said.

Legal luminaries like V Vijay Kumar, vice-chancellor of the Ambedkar University at Chennai, warned against constant additions to Schedule 2 (exempted entities). “You can’t keep adding entities to the list. The Act’s exemption clause is sufficient. Schedule 2 must be periodically reviewed,” he told TNS.

For privacy, which the PM called a grey area under the RTI, experts resolved that there could be no definition. Privacy is not a right given under any law of the country. It is an evolving right. “Even the courts interpret privacy on a case to case basis. We can’t define it and should not even attempt to do so,” V Vijay Kumar said.

The CIC also made it clear that exemptions needed to be seen liberally. “The Act intends to share information, not hide it. The exemption clause need to be seen in that light,” Mishra said.





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