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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Keep us out of RTI: CBI, UPSC, Metro

(Times of India, pg1, Jan 10, 2007, Manoj Mitta | TNN ) New Delhi: For all the popular acclaim received by the right to information (RTI ) Act and the transparency it promises, some of the most high-profile public authorities — including the Supreme Court, UPSC, CBI and Delhi Metro — have sought exemption from its purview.
This came to light in the first annual report of the RTI regulator, Central Information Commission, due to be presented shortly to the government.
CIC’s report is based on the returns filed by 837 public authorities on the working of RTI in 2005-06.
The plea to be exempted wholly or substantially from the ambit of the RTI Act has been made by eight of those public authorities, ironically, while offering their ‘‘recommendations for reform’’. Each cites a different reason for wanting out.
Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has sought a ‘‘general exemption’’ on the ground that it has undertaken a ‘‘timebound exercise’’ of laying an extensive network in the Capital ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

CBI cites ‘parity’ excuse for exemption from RTI
New Delhi: Some of the most high profile public authorities have sought exemption from RTI ’s purview.
CBI’s pretext of seeking an amendment to the RTI Act is that it wants to be treated on a par with the 18 intelligence and security organisations which are statutorily exempted from disclosing any information other than information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations.
The exemption sought by UPSC is specifically about information relating to ‘‘examination and recruitment/appointment cases’’. The nodal authority for UPSC and CBI is the personnel ministry, which is responsible for the administration of RTI as well.
Four of the other public authorities which have requested to be kept out of RTI ’s ambit are public sector undertakings. While BHEL and Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilisers Limited have apparently given no reason, National Building Construction Corporation has cited the need for a level playing field with the private sector. NBCC suggested that RTI be extended to cover the private sector as well or, alternatively, ‘‘exemption be considered for PSUs’’.
PEC Limited, a trading corporation under the commerce ministry, has sought a review of the ‘‘entitlement of a questioner seeking information on commercial deals or apparently irrelevant information, which will not help the public.’’ In a similar vein, BHEL and DMRC, too, suggested that in case their exemption pleas were not accepted, Parliament should consider introducing provisions to ‘‘check the bona fides of the requester and to refuse information to those who are not directly concerned with it, or might use it for promoting their own business interests or may misuse it.’’
The SC, as first reported by TOI, has sought exemption from the RTI Act for any information, which, in the opinion of the Chief Justice of India or his nominee, may ‘‘adversely affect or interfere or tend to interfere with the independence of the judiciary or administration of justice.’’
In its RTI return, SC suggested that a decision by the CJI should not be subjected to further appeal before CIC, presumably because it is appointed by the executive.

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