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Monday, October 12, 2009

RTI Act to be mended

Nidhi Sharma | New Delhi: NRIs to have easy access; more agencies to come into ambit

As the Right to Information (RTI) Act completes four years of enactment on Tuesday (October 13), here is some good news. The Government is planning to introduce amendments to make it easier for NRIs to seek information, reduce the number of organisations exempt from the Act and make it mandatory for Government departments to voluntarily disclose certain types of information.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has directed Minister of State in PMO Prithviraj Chavan to get feedback from the Central Information Commission (CIC), the final appellate authority for RTI Act, on the proposed amendments. Chavan would hold this interaction with all Information Commissioners on Wednesday after the conclusion of a two-day convention on RTI in the national Capital.

Speaking exclusively to The Pioneer on the eve of fourth anniversary of the RTI Act, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said, “I met the Prime Minister over the proposed amendments. I discussed with him in detail the need for consulting Information Commissioners over this move. Now, the Minister of State will have an interaction with the Central Information Commissioners on Wednesday after we are done with the two-day convention.”

Habibullah clarified that there was no attempt to increase fee or exempt file notings through the proposed amendments. “There was a lot of fear about this and that is why I met the Prime Minister. I have seen the proposed amendments to the Act and there is nothing of this sort. There is absolutely no move to exempt file notings.”

One of the main suggestions of the commission, which has been included in the list of proposed amendments, is that the Act should be made more NRI-friendly. “The NRIs, being Indian nationals, can apply for information under the RTI Act, but the means for access for them are very unsatisfactory. Where do they pay the fee of Rs 10, and how? When they approach Indian embassies, they are seldom helped.”

The proposed amendment would ensure that NRIs are able to pay through the embassies or through electronic transfer.

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