Activists question minister’s suggestion on RTI changes

New Delhi, Dec 6 (PTI) Union minister Jitendra Singh today threw up an idea for developing a system under which RTI applications would be filed only by those who had a link with the subject matter of the case, triggering an outcry from activists.

Jitendra Singh today addressing the 12th Annual Convention of the CIC, in New Delhi.
Jitendra Singh today addressing the 12th Annual Convention of the CIC, in New Delhi.

Addressing the 12th annual convention of the Central Information Commission here, Singh said this could help bring down the number of cases before the CIC.

The Minister of State in the Prime Ministers Office and for Personnel and Training clarified that he was not suggesting a new method, but urging the gathering to ponder over how to deal with unnecessary applications.

His remarks were opposed by a group of RTI activists, who said they “strongly disagreed” with the suggestion.

“Any move to introduce conditions to restrict RTI applications to only those issues on which a person is directly connected (with) will not just be illegal but will also empower PIOs to arbitrarily reject any RTI application on the pretext that it does not relate to the information seeker,” the National Campaign for Peoples Right to Information said in a statement.

The right to information, it said, was a fundamental one.

Section 6(2) specifically states that those seeking information are not required to give reasons for doing so, the group said.

It also questioned Singhs claim that the government had filled all the vacancies in the Commission, unlike during the time of the UPA government when there were only three or four information commissioners.

“…currently there are three vacancies in the CIC, with the first one occurring in December 2016. These vacancies have arisen out of routine retirement of information commissions. Despite the passage of more than 11 months, the government has not made any appointments of the information commissioners,” it said.

Earlier in his speech, Singh said when the Modi government took over on May 26, 2014, the biggest challenge before it was corruption.

“We embarked on a two-pronged strategy of zero tolerance towards corruption and protection to those performing their tasks with integrity and honesty,” he said.

The minister said the ultimate goal of an evolving democracy was that people had the “self esteem” of being incorruptible, transparent, accountable and able to deliver on time.

He said the present government was moving ahead with its resolve to check corruption with “conviction and courage, will and commitment”.

The day-long annual convention revolved around issues related to proactive disclosures under the RTI Act, record keeping and emerging trends in the use of the transparency law.