Cabinet set to scrap go-ahead to RTI changes

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SummarySources told The Indian Express that the decision comes after UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi indicated to the government her opposition to the proposed changes.

More than six years after it gave the go-ahead to amend the RTI Act, 2005 to, among other things, exclude public notings on files by officials from being accessed under the transparency law, the Cabinet is expected to withdraw the move when it meets on Thursday.

Sources told The Indian Express that the decision comes after UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi indicated to the government her opposition to the proposed changes. RTI activists had experts had questioned the logic, with several National Advisory Council (NAC) members like Aruna Roy also criticising the proposed amendments.

In July 2006, the Cabinet had cleared the amendments, which has been finalised after many government departments and organisations like the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Another amendment cleared by the Cabinet on the demand of the UPSC was aimed at exempting the competitive examination process from the RTI ambit. The proposal was to amend Section 2 (i)(a) of the RTI Act.

However, the enabling Bill was never introduced in Parliament due to strong opposition by the activists.

While the government had taken the stand that file notings were exempted under the transparency laws in countries like the US, UK and Australia, the activists had said that there was no need for the amendments.

The then Central Information Commissioner O P Kejriwal had also criticised the decision to exclude file notings from the purview of the RTI, saying it would take “life out of the law”.

However, the government is still to take a final decision on amending the Act to safeguard the sensitivity of the office of the Chief Justice of India. Aruna Roy had termed the amendments as an attempt by the government shield corrupt bureaucrats.

Earlier this month, addressing the annual convention of Information Commissioners, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had expressed concern over “frivolous and vexatious use of the RTI Act”.

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