Move to amend RTI Act raises concerns

RTIThiruvananthapuram: The General Administration (Coordination) Department, Kerala, has sent a circular to all heads of departments and offices and collectors seeking information on problems in the implementation of Right to Information Act (RTI) towards amending the Act. This has raised some concerns among RTI activists in the State.

The circular says that the Committee of Subordinate Legislation of Parliament has decided to amend the Act “to bring transparency in the functioning of government bodies and to expose malpractices if any in the system.”

It has sought consolidated details on difficulties faced by government departments on account of irrelevant or fake applications and suggestions to remedy difficulties besides data on the number of applications received, replies given and appeals before the Information Commission in order to arrive at conclusions regarding the proposed amendments. This was to be transmitted to the Central Government.

However, the Committee has actually no right to decide on amendments to the Act. All that the Committee can do is to recommend on amendments to Rules made under the Act. The Committee may just be proposing them.

Activist D. B. Binu notes that whether an application is relevant or irrelevant is not a decision to be left to officials. The information sought will, in any case, be of relevance to the applicant. It is not clear what is meant by fake applications.

He stressed that the opinions of stake holders including RTI activists and Non-governmental organisations should be sought before the Committee made any recommendation.