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What’s the news: Former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, in a petition addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has appealed that the proposal to amend section 8 (1)(j) of the Right to Information Act 2005 included in the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023 (DPDP) be deleted as it “will convert RTI into a Right to Denial of Information.”
What is the amendment proposed? Section 44(3) of the DPDP proposes to do away with an exemption of the RTI Act (under Section 8(1)(j)) that would essentially allow the government to decline any RTI requesting information relating to a person. It also removes a clause that ensure citizens’ right to access the same information that the Parliament or a State legislature has access to. A detailed understanding of the impact of this amendment can be read here.
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Remove the amendment: Gandhi and other signatories appealed in the letter that the data protection Bill be presented before a Parliamentary panel after the following changes are made to it:
- The DPDP Bill should remove the amendment proposed for the RTI Act.
- The provision in the DPDP Bill, relating to right to information, does not override the RTI Act
“This [amendment] would allow officers to hide most information from the common woman and protect corruption,” said the letter.
1. India got its Right to Information owing to a decade-long struggle of labourers in Rajasthan for minimum wages. 18 years on, India's #RTI Act could soon become "the right to denial of info". ~ @shaileshgan, former Central Information Commissioner.https://t.co/MQTwqrNEKZ pic.twitter.com/wFxyUuHbe6
— Change.org India (@ChangeOrg_India) August 8, 2023
The entire letter can be read below along with the names of signatories:
“Petition text updated on 7th August 2023.
Save RTI: Citizen’s Empowerment
The Prime Minister
The RTI Act is one of the most empowering legislations for the citizens of India. It has been of great help to every segment of society from the most disempowered to the powerful to obtain relevant information and protect their rights. It has built in adequate safeguards under Section 8 (1) (j) to protect individual privacy, The ten exemptions of Section 8(1) have served the nation well.
The proposal to amend section 8 (1)(j) at Section 44(3) of the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill of 2023 (DPDP) will convert RTI into a Right to Denial of Information since most information can be linked to a person. This would allow officers to hide most information from the common woman and protect corruption.
There is almost no instance where release of information under RTI has caused any significant loss to any national or personal interest which deserves to be protected. We appeal to you to use your good offices to stop the proposed amendments to the RTI ACT as well as indirect attempts to destroy it via the DPDP bill. The RTI act is a fundamental right and empowers citizens to curb corruption and wrongdoing.
Please ensure that the Digital Personal Data Protection bill of 2023
- Does not override RTI Act in Section 38 (2). The RTI Act has sufficient safeguards.
- Does not amend the RTI Act. Section 44 (3) should be deleted.
- Since the act is used by every Indian, it is important that all the people are able to understand the changes and their implication.
Hence, we appeal to you to ensure that there is a proper public consultation process throughout the country. The proposed DPDP bill after the two changes suggested above should be made available in all regional languages and proper public consultations done, before parliamentary approval.
Anjali Bhardwaj, Anjali Damania, Amrita Johri, Aruna Roy, Debashis Basu, Manoj Harit, Nikhil Dey, Sanjay Jha, Sambhaji Sarkunde, Shailesh Gandhi, Sridhar Acharyulu, Sucheta Dalal, Sunil Ahya, Yashovardhan Azad”.
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