Right to Information - Meeting With President Kalam
- Right to Information -
Meeting With President Kalam
It was a pleasure to receive invitation from the President of India,
Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam to discuss our concerns regarding the "Right
to Information Act." 04:45 P.M. on October 30, 2006 was the appointed
time for the meeting.
I and three of my associates had an opportunity to discuss issues
relating to RTI reforms needed for proper implementation of the "Right
to Information" laws. The President was very receptive and discussed
all the concerns we had, in full details, during the 30 minutes
meeting. The President showed keen interest on the suggestion that the
whole of India should have the same RTI rules applicable everywhere
instead each state making its own rules.
Five major issues were discussed in the meeting. It was mentioned that
some information commissions were wrongly preventing NGO's from
seeking information under the RTI Act. We pointed out that when NGO's
were empowered to move the courts for preventing violation of
fundamental rights under part three of the constitution then there was
no reason why there should be any restriction on seeking information,
especially when legally there was no restriction on NGO's or AoP's to
The provisions of Section 27 and 28, which empower the "State
Governments" and "Competent Authorities" to make their own rules were
also discussed. It was mentioned that these provisions were being
grossly misused and playing untold bedlam and severely restricting the
implementation of the RTI Act.
Issues relating to appointment and condition of service of the
information commissioners were also discussed. We emphasised that no
government servant should be eligible for selected for the position of
information commissioner until three years have elapsed since his/her
last assignment with the government. There must be the involvement of
the Supreme or the High court chief justice instead of any other
minister in the appointment of the information commissioners. We
insisted that just like the provisions in the Human Rights Act, any
person who has been an information commissioner must be ineligible for
further government appointment so as to ensure impartiality in
selection and decision making of the commission.
Information Commissions must be promoted as facilitation centres with
minimum procedural hurdles and not as courts with complicated
procedure was our emphasis. And lastly the most important issue of no
amendment which abridges the right to information as enjoyed currently
under the RTI Act was also discussed.
The President was most receptive and discussed each of the issues we
raised point-by-point. All my comrades, namely Mr. Ajit Tomar, Ms.
Poonam and Mr. Devender Madan contributed to the discussion to make it
more emphatic and forceful.
With a concerned President like Dr. Kalam, I am sure the RTI Act is in
safe hands. Meeting the President assured us that Dr. Kalam is as much
concerned about the unfettered right to information as me and you are.
Burning Brain Society
Copy of the memorandum discussed with Dr. Kalam
October 30, 2006
His Excellency Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam,
President of India
ENSURING PROPER IMPLEMENTATION OF RTI ACT FOR EMPOWERING PEOPLE
We are thankful to Your Excellency for sparing valuable time to listen
to the voice of the common man on concerns relating to implementation
of the "Right to Information Act 2005." The intend of every concerned
citizen is that the RTI Act should achieve the intended objective of
empowering the people by helping inch the nation closer in achieving
the goals enshrined in the Constitution to built an egalitarian
society based on Justice, Liberty and Equality.
We on behalf of the common people of India would like to highlight
some of the issues relating to proper implementation of the "Right to
Information" for your kind perusal;
PREVENT EXLUSION OF CIVIL SOCIETY FROM RTI
In a bizarre interpretation of the "RTI Act" the Central Information
Commission has held that any NGO, Trust, Society or any other AoP are
not eligible to seek information under the RTI Act. Such
interpretation is not only incorrect but also illegal.
To point out the legal interpretation, it may be mentioned that any
NGO, Trust, Society or any other AoP can approach the High Court or
the Supreme Court for protection of the fundamental rights as in Part
III of the constitution or otherwise. Section 6 and Sec. 18 and 19 of
the RTI clearly read that any "Person" may seek any information and
any "Person" may file an appeal with the Information Commission.
According to Article 367 of the Constitution, for any interpretation
the "General Clauses Act, 1897" has to be referred. Section 3 (42) of
the General Clauses Act, 1897 reads that "Person" shall include any
company or association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or
not;" (Quoted). Further even Section 11 of the Indian Penal Code 1860
also defines "Person" as "Person"-The word "person" includes any
Company of Association of body of persons, whether incorporated or
It is quite strange that an NGO can approach the Supreme Court for
enforcement of rights conferred under the Part III of the constitution
but are denied the right to seek information under the RTI Act by the CIC.
Any attempt to exclude NGO's and/or Civil Society from the RTI Act
shall have a telling effect on achieving the desired ends of the Act.
This wrong interpretation must be immediately clarified and rectified.
UNIFORMITY IN RTI RULES
The provisions of Section 27 and 28 which empower the "State
Governments" and "Competent Authorities" to make their own rules are
playing untold bedlam and severely restricting the implementation of
the RTI Act. These provisions are being grossly misused by many
"Competent authorities," "State Governments" and the corrupt
Many States and Competent authorities have prescribed fee as high as
Rs. 500/- (Instead of Rs. 10/- as prescribed by the Act) for seeking
information. Complicated forms and payment methods to deposit RTI fee
has been prescribed which makes it nearly impossible for a common
citizen (Especially people living under poverty line or those
illiterate) to seek information. For example Delhi High Court
prescribes a fee of 500 for seeking information (Rule 10 of "Delhi
High Court (Right to Information) Rules, 2006") and has reduced the
fine on delinquent official not furnishing information to Rs. 50/- per
day (Instead of the prescribed Rs. 250/- per day in the RTI Act).
Similarly the State of Himachal Pradesh which has a large population
living in poverty has prescribed two complicated forms "A" and "D" for
seeking information and inspecting files. Further Himachal Government
accepts fee only if it be deposited in the Himachal Government
Treasury and three copies of the treasury receipt are deposited along
with the two forms. Further if a subject matter related to a matter
spread over ten years then the applicant has to submit ten separate
applications, one pertaining to each year and deposit separate set of
form and fee for each year. Most other State Governments like Haryana
too have enhanced the RTI fee to Rs. 50/- or above in addition to
prescribing non-practical and cumbersome rules.
The power granted to the State Government and Competent Authorities
under Section 27 and 28 to frame their own rules must be immediately
recalled and uniform rules by the Central Government must only be
applicable. People from any part of the country must be enabled to
seek information from any other part of the country. "One India"
should have "One rule".
APPOINTMENT & SELECTION OF THE CIC AND SIC
The present mode of appointment of the CIC and the SIC as mentioned
under Section 12 and 15 is not proper and needs to be changed.
a. The three member recommendation committee for the CIC and
other Information Commissioners should include the "Chief Justice of
the Supreme Court" in place of "a Union Cabinet Minister nominated by
the Prime Minister," as mentioned in Section 12(3)(iii).
b. The three member recommendation committee for the SIC and
other Information Commissioners should include the "Chief Justice of
the High Court of the State" in place of "a Cabinet Minister nominated
by the Chief Minister," as mentioned in Section 15(3)(iii).
c. No person from the bureaucracy should be appointed as an
Information Commissioner unless at-least three years have elapsed
since his/her last assignment with the government. The precedence of
appointing the relived "Chief Secretaries" as Information Commissioner
is detrimental for proper implementation of the RTI Act as many times
the Information Commissioners have to listen to appeals against the
same officers with whom he/she still enjoys a very emotional or close
personal rapport. This often comes in way of passing firm orders
and/or penalizing delinquent officials.
d. As far as possible young people involved in social activities
with a proven track record and who are adequately qualified should be
considered for the position of Information Commissioners.
TERM OF SERVICE OF THE CIC AND SIC
No Information Commissioner should be eligible for any further
appointment under the Government of the State or under the Government
of India on ceasing to hold office. To ensure that the members of the
commission work in an unbiased manner and do their duty without
expecting any future gains/returns for any "favour granted," including
such a condition is must.
Such a condition is also there in Section 24(3) of "Protection of
Human Rights Act 1993," which reads, "24(3): On ceasing to hold
office, a Chairperson or a Member shall be ineligible for further
employment under the Government of a State or under the Government of
India." A similar condition should be included in the RTI Act.
NEED TO PROJECT INFORMATION COMMISSIONS AS "FACILITATING BODIES" AND
NOT AS COURTS
Most Information Commissioners are projecting themselves akin "Judges"
and "Information Commission Office" as "Court of Law." This is counter
productive and gives an impression of an unfriendly and vexatious
system. Such an image is likely to defeat the objective of the RTI
Act. Most Information Commissions are also promoting the idea of
quoting the earlier decisions of Central Information Commission or the
State Commissions as precedence, just as case laws quoted in courts.
Our Constitution does not intend to promote such a system and this is
the reason that only the "High Court" and the "Supreme Court" have
been designated as courts of record and no other tribunal or quasi
judicial commission/forum. By promoting a system like that of courts,
the distance between the "Commission" and "People" is likely to
increase further which would be eventually fatal to the desired
objectives. Besides, such a system would also give growth to
professionals who are expert in manipulating all such systems and
procedure to their advantage.
QUESTION OF AMENDMENT
No amendment which abridges the right to information as enjoyed
currently under the RTI Act must be allowed to be made. No new
organisation should be included in the "Second Schedule" of the RTI
Act. All discussions and contemplations regarding any proposed
amendment to the RTI Act should be open to public at all times and
done only after involvement of the civil society which should be
absolutely open and transparent at all stages.
Your Excellency; we are very hopeful that you will consider our prayer
and thereby enable the voice of citizens of India mouthed through us,
heard in the higher echelons of power. We also pray that the necessary
administrative, legal and other corrective changes as suggested above
are considered so that the spirit of the RTI Act and the Constitution
of India is protected.
Chairperson, Burning Brain Society
Convenor, Citizens Voice
Devender Madan Ajit Tomar Poonam Goswami Neeraj
.... and other concerned Citizens of India
Cross posted:BURNING BRAIN NEWSLETTER - October 2006