New Delhi: The proposal to withdraw the amendments proposed to the Right to Information Act in 2006 has been accepted in the Cabinet meeting on Thursday. With the proposed amendments dropped, the Right to Information Act will not be diluted much to the delight of social activists. The move came after Congress President Sonia Gandhi opposed the amendments.
The amendment suggested was that the government exempts file notings from disclosure except for development and social issues. The amendment also suggested that the exam selection process be exempted from the RTI ambit. The amendments were seen as dilution of the RTI Act.
The dilutions had also planned to curb providing information about public examination and evaluation of an individual for appointment in the government. These were mooted in 2009 but never introduced in Parliament. Sources said that this was because of opposition from RTI activists and the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council (NAC).
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said in October that the RTI Act cannot be used to violate the privacy of an individual. While expressing concerns about the loopholes in the RTI Act in its present form, the Prime Minister had emphasised that a fine balance is required between the RTI and the right to privacy. Manmohan Singh reiterated that a citizen's right to know should definitely be circumscribed if disclosure of information encroaches upon someone's personal privacy.
"There is a fine balance required to be maintained between the right to information and the right to privacy, which stems out of the fundamental right to life and liberty. The citizens' right to know should definitely be circumscribed if disclosure of information encroaches upon someone's personal privacy. But where to draw the line is a complicated question," he said while addressing the seventh Convention of Central Information Commissioners in New Delhi.
The Prime Minister said, "There are concerns about frivolous and vexatious use of the Act in demanding information disclosure of which cannot possibly serve any public purpose." Singh said such queries besides serving little productive purpose are also a drain on the resources of public authorities, diverting precious man-hours that could be put to better use.
Manmohan Singh had in 2011 also said that the government wishes to make Right to Information an "even more effective instrument" for ensuring transparency but wanted a critical look at it to address certain concerns. He had said the transparency law should not adversely affect deliberative processes in the Government and discourage honest, well meaning public servants from voicing their views.
He, however, had denied suggestions that he had pitched for dilution of Right to Information Act. He maintained that he had never said that there should be any dilution of the Act.