“ …[The RTI amendment] actually can result in 90-95 percent of the information being denied [by Public Information Officers or PIOs]. Only thing you might get is budgets. And budget also, somebody [can] imaginatively relate person to state from the DPDP Act and says I won’t give this data… It is certainly very threatening. It is almost, rendering the right to information into a right to deny information. The denial of information will become primary. A PIO will give information depending on his sweet will. Most information, he’ll find a way of relating to a person, ghost employees, corruption charges, all of this goes under the personal [information]. Section 8(1)(j) had 87 words. It has now been reduced to six. They’re making the law shorter, but with no benefit,” said Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, when discussing the implications of the recent Right to Information (RTI) Act amendment mentioned in the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023.
The contentious amendment relates to Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, an exemption clause for personal information that is not part of any public activity or causes unwarranted invasion of privacy. However, while the previous clause restricted the abuse of this exemption, the amendment under the data protection law appears to have given PIOs what Gandhi calls “a right to deny information.”
During the interview, Gandhi talks to MediaNama’s Vallari Sanzgiri about his stand on the amendment as well as the deletion of a proviso clause immediately after Section 8(1)(j). Gandhi also talks about the road ahead for RTI applicants and what steps we should take as citizens and media persons to push back against this amendment.
Watch the full interview here:
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