NCPRI & IM4C Consultation on Pre-Legislative Processes and Amendment to RTI Rules
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  • December 22, 2010
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December 22nd 2010

The National Campaign for Peoples Right to Information (NCPRI), in collaboration with Inclusive Media for Change and others, organized a meeting on the pre-legislative consultation process. Members of civil society organizations——CHRI, PRS, JOSH, ADR, FMP, SNS, CPR, Pardarshita, Sangat, Hazards Centre, NFIW, Greenpeace and others participated in the discussion. Former CIC Wajahat Habibullah, retired chief justice A P Shah of the Delhi High Court and social activists——Aruna Roy, Shekhar Singh, Dunu Roy, Annie Raja, Nikhil Dey, Kamla Bhasin, Maja Daruwala, Venkatesh Nayak, Lokesh Batra participated in the consultation. Members from the media also participated in the discussion.

Pre-Legislative Consultation Process

There was a general agreement that the absence of any secure and robust mechanisms of pre-legislative consultation is one of the weaker links of our political and policy process that requires to be redressed. Therefore there was an appreciation of the present initiative and a mandate to take it forward.

There was a general appreciation of the suggestions made in the approach paper (attached). Besides, the following additional suggestions came up:

  1. Need to link existing institutions like the NHRC, NMC, SC Commission, NWC etc. with the proposed consultative process so as to avoid duplication
  2. We should focus not just on disclosures and opening for giving inputs, but also on mandatory deliberations that ensure that these inputs get due attention.
  3. Need to pay equal attention to subsidiary legislation and the rule framing at the level of the states, for that is where much of the tinkering takes place.
  4. Certain kinds of legislations should be referred to the local bodies set up under the 73rd and 74th amendments.

It was further suggested:

  •   There should be a provision for referendum for a certain types of legislation keeping in mind the social realities that define the day-to- day lives of a diverse population like that of India.
  •   Interests of various sections of society affected by laws and lawmaking procedures should be kept in mind while making these legislations.
  •   All such legislations need to be supplemented by some changes in the existing legislative process, like sharing more information with the MPs, adding research capacity of the MPs and MLAs, expanded time period and improved mechanismfor receiving public feedback, reducing the tendency to bypass committees and ending procedural adhocism.There was a brief discussion about how to give effect to these proposals for strengthening pre-legislative consultations and there were three broad suggestions that emerge:
  1. Improving existing rules and procedures such as Parliamentary Rules of Business, greater recourse to ‘Notes on Clauses’, amendments in circular from Cabinet Secretariat etc.
  2. Strengthening of the RTI Act 2005.
  3. Perhaps even consider drafting a separate law that brings together allsuch provisions.

The broad consensus was strongly in favour of a robust, open and inclusive pre-legislative consultation process. These discussions will be taken forward in forums and meetings to be convened over the next few months. It was agreed that multiple methods would be used to open up the process like demanding rigorous implementation of mandatory provisions of the RTI Act, i.e., Section 4 and seeking changes to DoPT/PMO circulars to allow for consultations on proposed legislations along the lines of the existing inter-ministerial consultations.

Proposed amendments: RTI Rules

In the post lunch session, the NCPRI recommendations made to the DoPT through the NAC working group on Transparency and Accountability were presented, discussed and endorsed by all present.

It was also proposed that a further discussion was required on the open and transparent process for selection of Information Commissioners (ICs). It was decided by the group that while these recommendations will be sent to the DoPT, an extension will be sought from the Government of India so that detailed recommendations could be made on the procedures of appointment of ICs as well as rules for the functioning of Information Commissions.

For more information contact: Rakshita Swamy 9818838588 (ncpri.india@gmail.com)

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