‘Amendments will dilute RTI Act’

August 06, 2018 12:00 am | Updated 05:15 am IST - NEW DELHI

Srikrishna panel did not consult CIC: Acharyulu

M. Sridhar Acharyulu

M. Sridhar Acharyulu

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.

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.”

However, he felt that the most dangerous term was “harm”, which is defined in 10 different ways, including “mental injury”, “loss of reputation, or humiliation” and “any subjection to blackmail or extortion”. Any of these could be used to reject information, as even embarrassment could be considered as “mental injury”, he said.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.