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Sunday 16 October 2011

‘Change shouldn’t dilute law’

‘Change shouldn’t dilute law’ KA
The Congress party and the UPA government may be talking of changes to the RTI Act, but it has not found favour among the experts and activists.
altAs the largest constituent of UPA, Congress showcased RTI as its biggest achievement to bring in transparency in governance and empower the people. Now, it wants a relook at the transparency law. In the words of Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari, there is no denying the fact that RTI has empowered people, but “whether this efficacy is impinging on the governance is to be seen.”

“An invigorating debate is on about RTI, with an entire spectrum of views coming from various stakeholders,” he pointed out, adding that the party would like to hear all sides on the issue.

However, Wajahat Habibullah, the country’s first Chief Information Commissioner, differs with the views expressed by two senior ministers of the Central government, M Veerappa Moily and Salman Khurshid, that RTI was transgressing into governance and interfering with efficient delivery.

“I don’t agree with them. They must be merely apprehensions; what is required is the strengthening of the implementation of the law,” Habibullah told Sunday Spotlight, when asked about the cry for changes to the RTI law getting louder.

Sensitive information
On Moily’s contention that there was need to amend the provision for making public even notings in official files and discussions, Habibullah, who is the chairperson of the National Commission of Minorities said: “It is all about the implementation of the law. Restrictions are already there within the law to withhold sensitive information. What is needed most is the effective implementation of the law.”

Habibullah stressed the need for “acquainting people about the effective use of the law, which will strengthen the government functioning” instead of weakening it.

He also spoke against keeping the country’s premier investigating agency - Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) - out of the purview of RTI Act and said, “public interest would best be served by keeping such bodies transparent and accountable within the limits of the law”.

Terming the move to keep CBI out of RTI as “counter productive”, he said, “transparency in the functioning of the CBI within the limits prescribed by the law is the most desirable means for ensuring its accountability.”

Activists upset

Similarly, RTI activists are also upset over the views expressed by the government and the Congress against the transparency law. RTI activist Subhash Aggrawal said that the law in its present form has been instrumental in exposing many a scam and putting a check on corruption in various government departments.

“What do these ministers want? Should the guilty not be punished? Should scams be allowed to happen? Should the truth not come out before the public?” he questioned, and said that any change in the law should not be for its dilution.

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