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Amendments Proposed In Draft Data Protection Law Could Weaken RTI Act, Warn Experts: Report

The government seeks to delete Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, to achieve “consistency” across laws, but how will this impact transparency?

Experts warn that last week's draft data protection law may empower the government's right to deny the public information on its working, reports the Hindustan Times. Section 30(2) of the draft Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022 (DPDP Bill), proposes deleting a portion of Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). Section 8(1) deals with exemptions—or when the government can refuse to publicly disclose information. The proposed amendment would allow public information officers to deny public requests for information on government officers on the simple ground that it is personal information. Original section 8(1)(j): [There shall be no obligation to give any citizen] Information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or 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. Proposed amendment: [There shall be no obligation to give any citizen] Information which relates to personal information. Why it matters: Even in its current form, Section 8(1)(j) is routinely "misused" by public information officers to justify withholding information requested by RTIs on privacy and public interest grounds. "If this amendment is made, all information that can be related to a person may be denied. Most information relates to a person and hence the law would become a Right to Deny…

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