RTI Act needs changes to ensure privacy: Balakrishnan

NHRC Chairman K.G. Balakrishnan. File Photo: V. Sudershan  

National Human Resource Commission chief K.G. Balakrishnan on Friday favoured changes in the Right to Information Act, saying there were “loopholes” that were being “grossly misused.”

The former Chief Justice of India also said it was time to do some “introspection” to the functioning of the various provisions of the RTI Act, noting that the legislation was “probably” passed in the Parliament “hurriedly.”

“Like every other legislation, this (RTI Act) is also grossly misused by some people. Just like Right to Information, Right to Privacy is also an important right and independence of judiciary is an important thing. These are all on the basis of Constitution. Just like RTI Act, any other constitutionally valued principles should also be protected,” he said.

Justice Balakrishnan noted that though the Act is “wonderful” and has had “great impact” on Indian society it is in fact “a sort of misuse” of the provisions of the Act which creates a problem.

“Not drastic, but some cosmetic changes are required in the act to plug the loopholes,” he suggested.

The chairperson of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was addressing a seminar organised by Institute of Secretariat Training and Management on ‘Right to Information — Key to good governance.’

Justice Balakrishnan, who demitted office of CJI in May, had consistently maintained during his tenure that his office does not come under the transparency law and hence cannot part with information like disclosure of judges’ assets under it.

In a path-breaking verdict, the Delhi High Court had on January 12 held that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes under the purview of the RTI Act following which the Supreme Court filed an appeal before itself challenging the judgement.

The former CJI noted that in over 50 countries, which have Right to Information Act, judiciary is “completely” exempted from the purview of the legislation except in India.

“I was told that it (RTI Act) is touching on privacy. That is also a serious subjects.

“I also, in my previous office, had to fight it out to some extent. Any information regarding appointment of judges...about reputation and activities of chief justice we get written opinion. And we can not divulge it to the public.

I strongly objected to these. But under the provisions of the Act, we had to divulge some of these information. It could be misused,” he maintained.

The NHRC chief noted that under the RTI Act, there are provisions for exemption in matters like public safety, integrity and safety of country and criminal investigations.

“But even then making use of the provisions of 2005 (RTI) Act, we can get so many information which could be used to harm some body, some corporate bodies individuals and all.

“Unfortunately, most of the applicants, who seek information (under the Act), are misusing it in the sense that the information they see is not for public good,” he said.

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Printable version | May 5, 2021 9:13:34 AM |

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