NEW DELHI: The Union cabinet on Thursday decided to withdraw some amendments it had proposed to the Right to Information Act after protests from civil society which was also backed by the UPA chairperson, Ms Sonia Gandhi.
A meeting of the cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh decided to withdraw the amendments which had sought to restrict disclosure of file notings only to social and development issues under the transparency law.
The Minister of State for Personnel, Mr V Narayanasamy said in line with public sentiments that the proposed amendments would dilute the bill, the government decided that it would not go ahead with carrying out the amendments.
He said the civil society activists had made representations to the government that it should not go ahead with the changes.
The minister recalled that the Prime Minister had spoken of the government’s intention to strengthen the RTI Act and not to dilute it.
The amendments were cleared by the cabinet way back in 2006 but could not be brought to Parliament because of stiff opposition from NGOs, activists and Central Information Commission, all of whom felt the changes would dilute the bill.
The campaign was led by Ms Aruna Roy, member of the National Advisory Council headed by Ms Gandhi, who also supported their demand and conveyed it to the government.
The decision will help an RTI applicant to access file notings on almost all matters of governance barring the ones related to national security, international relations and privacy and protection of commercial interest.
RTI activists said that Thursday’s decision will bring clarity in the implementation of the transparency law. “We had opposed the government’s move to restrict file notings out of RTI Act’s ambit in 2006. With today’s cabinet decision, the government has made it clear that they do not want to tinker the transparency law,” said Mr Lokesh Batra, an RTI activist.
Another RTI activist Mr Vivek Garg said, “There is a need to further amend the transparent Act so that people can exercise it more freely. File notings on important matters were not being given citing the exemption clause. Today’s decision will bring clarity in it”.