Letter to Smt. Sonia Gandhi from NCPRI
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  • August 28, 2013
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Smt. Sonia Gandhi Chairperson
UPA

Dear Mrs Gandhi,

August 28, 2013

The enactment and implementation of the Right to Information Act 2005 is considered one of the most significant achievements of your government. You have spearheaded and supported this landmark legislation throughout- during the course of its passage in Parliament and subsequently when amendments were proposed to it. We are writing to request a meeting with you to discuss The RTI (Amendment) Bill 2013, which is currently in Parliament.

In the eight years since its enactment, the RTI Act has enabled the citizens of India to make informed choices and strengthened participatory democracy in the country. The legislation has helped people end a culture of secrecy in governance and enabled Indian democracy to begin to move towards a system of open and transparent government. The RTI Act has globally been recognised and heralded as amongst the most progressive access to information laws in the world.

Any amendment that dilutes the people’s right to information would weaken this important avenue of reform, and even undermine the process of realizing constitutional promises. The introduction of the RTI Amendments Bill in Parliament, as a reaction to the recent Central Information Commission order, has raised widespread suspicion among citizens that the political establishment is attempting to cover acts of corruption and arbitrary use of power. This belief is being further reinforced by the fact that there have been no public consultations on the amendments.

Since the RTI Amendment Bill has already been tabled in Parliament, we urge you to prevent the Bill from being put to vote in a hasty manner. We request you to ensure that the Amendment Bill is referred to a Standing Committee of Parliament or a Select Committee, to facilitate widespread public consultation on the issue. You will recall that the government made an assurance in Parliament in 2009 that the RTI Act will not be amended without public consultation. It would be a travesty of this assurance if such an important issue were to be passed without deliberation and consultation in the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

We are confident that you will be responsive to peoples’ appeal and once again protect the RTI Act. We are sure that a process of dialogue and deliberation both within, and outside parliament, would prevent the dilution of the Right to Information law.

With regards. Yours sincerely,

Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Venkatesh Nayak, Rakesh Dubbudu, Bhaskar Prabhu (Co-convenors of the NCPRI)

CC: Aruna Roy
Enclosed: Annexure 1: Letter to the PM on RTI amendments (endorsed by over 1 lakh people)

To:
Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister, Government of India

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

India’s governance is going through a credibility crisis as never before, in which all sectors of governance and social formations have been suspect. The political establishment has come in for most severe criticism, just and unjust.

Perhaps the only real argument for the credibility of the government continues to be the enactment and implementation of the RTI Act. It has been an entitlement which has kept the intent of a free and open system of governance afloat. The multiple uses of the Act to improve government functioning are so many that they defy enumeration. The use of the RTI is therefore seen as the one stated intent of the government to lay itself open to scrutiny, and therefore accountability.

The series of attempts to amend the Act, which have arisen periodically, have since 2006 been nullified to a large extent by public pressure as well as the political will of a part of the establishment and government.

It is reported that the Government is considering the introduction of a bill in Parliament to amend the RTI law, as a sharp reaction to the recent Central Information Commission order, which declared six political parties to be public authorities under the RTI Act. Such a move to amend the Act will reinforce and confirm the suspicions of many that the political establishment intends to cover acts of corruption and arbitrary use of power.

We, as citizens of India, empowered by the RTI Act, demand that it not be amended. The Act has enabled the making of informed choices and strengthened participatory democracy; by enabling the citizens of India to monitor and access services throughout the country. Any amendment to the RTI Act would undermine and weaken the process of realizing various constitutional promises. In 2009, when amendments were being proposed to the RTI Act, the concerned minister of the government had assured Parliament, in response to a question, that “Non- Governmental Organisations and Social activists will be consulted on the proposed amendments.” We would, therefore, expect the government to hold wide ranging public discussions before they think of amending the law in any way.

We are confident that the government will recognise the force of our demand and not take steps to amend and thereby dilute the Right to Information law, which has been acknowledged in India and abroad, as an affirmation of the right of Indian citizens to participate in, and monitor, democratic governance.

Sincerely,
Signatories of this letter

Letter was endorsed by more than 1 lakh people and was handed over to the PM on the 19th of August 2013

[Copy of the press release can be accessed from here]

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