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Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu opposes RTI Act amendments

Corrupt government officials will be able to escape public scrutiny if the Right to Information Act, 2005 is amended according to the recommendations of the Justice Srikrishna committee on data protection, Central Information Commissioner M. Sridhar Acharyulu has warned.

In a letter to Chief Information Commissioner R.K. Mathur and his five fellow Commissioners, Professor Acharyulu warned that if the amendments are made, “The Right to Information Act will be rendered absolutely useless in securing access to public records pertaining to public servants.”

Terming the amendments as unconstitutional, he noted that the Justice Srikrishna panel had not consulted the Central Information Commission before making its recommendations.

‘New threat’

He suggested that the Commissioners meet to “consider this new threat ... and take a stand to oppose it at this stage itself.”

The Hindu has seen a copy of the letter, which is dated 2nd August 2018.

When the RTI Amendment Bill was introduced in Parliament last month, Prof. Acharyulu had similarly written to his fellow Commissioners urging them to oppose the Bill, which would “dilute the independence” of the transparency regulator.

The Justice Srikrishna panel’s draft Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 proposes to amend Section 8 of the RTI Act, which allows certain types of information to be exempted from disclosure. This includes “information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.”

The proposed amendment would instead exempt “information which relates to personal data which is likely to cause harm to a data principal, where such harm outweighs the public interest in accessing such information having due regard to the common good of promoting transparency and accountability in the functioning of the public authority.”

If amended, the Section would “expand scope of denial of information with several ambiguous and very wide expressions,” warned Prof. Acharyulu, pointing out that the Bill contains no definitions for “common good”, “promotion”, “transparency”, or even “privacy.”

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Printable version | Jan 11, 2021 6:23:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/information-commissioner-sridhar-acharyulu-opposes-rti-act-amendments/article24609457.ece

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