Sunday, October 18, 2009

Leave the RTI alone

The Right to Information Act can be regarded as an aberration in view of the government's longstanding penchant for secrecy, which is a colonial-era legacy.
Although it had beaten a retreat in a moment of unusual open-mindedness to enact it, there have been occasional efforts to recover what it apparently considers lost ground. One such attempt is again being made with a proposal to amend the legislation on the grounds of excluding vexatious and frivolous complaints. It takes little perspicacity, however, to see that this may well be the thin end of the wedge, which will prove to be a convenient tool in the hands of bureaucrats to rule as out of bounds those inquiries which pry too deeply into their closed world.

A second attempt in similar vein has been to revive the old official reluctance to disclose file notings. Although this move has been camouflaged this time by a circumlocutory reference to keep out of the RTI's purview those
"discussions/consultations that take place before arriving at a decision", the political and bureaucratic objective is clear. Yet, it is these very confabulations which tend to give the game away, for they reveal the identity of those behind the moulding of the final decision as well as their not always laudatory motives.

It goes without saying, therefore, that these dubious endeavours to tamper with the RTI Act should be resisted. In a country where the Official Secrets Act is still very much in force and the Henderson-Brooks report on the border conflict with China remains under wraps nearly half a century after the event, the RTI Act should be left strictly alone.

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