Government should strengthen RTI Act for objective of transparency: Former CIC

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New Delhi, April 14 (IANS) The Narendra Modi government should strengthen the RTI Act in order to realise its stated objectives of bringing transparency and maximum governance with minimum government, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said here on Friday.

At the release of the book “The RTI Story-Power to the People” authored by Aruna Roy along with MKSS collective, Habibullah particularly stressed on making Section 4 of the Act “enforceable”.

The section deals with digitising the government records and making them available for larger public consumption through information technology. He said he was not sure that attempts to dilute the Right to Information (RTI) Act have intensified after the Modi government came to power or not but what he knew was that at one point “for six months virtually the position of the Chief Information Commissioner was kept vacant”.

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“The Prime Minister has expressed every intention to strengthen the (RTI) law. In practice we haven’t seen any step to strengthen it, but we haven’t seen any serious attempt to undermine it either,” Habibullah told IANS.

He said that there have indeed been attempts at diluting the RTI Act “as certain amendments have been suggested from time to time which would have diluted the Act”, but those have not taken place.

“I am not so much up to date in this matter but there are allegations that people are attempting to weaken the rules and make them less strong. These attempts may continue but luckily the strength of this Act is the support it has among the people. Every attempt that has been made has been stoutly opposed by the people themselves,” he said.

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The former CIC said that laws like the Official Secrets Act, 1923, which is a “colonial construct” should not be part of the system.

“The Administrative Reforms Commission has also recommended that after RTI coming into effect the Official Secrets Act should go. It is not keeping with the democracy at all. But government may not do something as drastic and it may go in phases but ultimately we must agree that a law like the Official Secrets Act which is a colonial construct should not be part of our system,” he said.

Of the book, Aruna Roy said that it is a story of a large number of people who were part of the RTI movement but have been forgotten.

“This is a story of ordinary people who made the RTI Act and gifted it to the nation. We must remember great acts are not done by single individuals but by large collectives. More than the RTI the story of the movement tells us that India needs movements which bring us together not ideas that will break us. Today we have every single idea that comes forward is divisive,” Roy said.

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She said that the earlier government too tried to dilute the RTI Act but the present government tried to do it “by omission and commission”.

She said that more than the RTI law, the system implementing it needed to be strengthened to bring real power to the common people.

–IANS

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