As citizens and activists committed to building a transparent and accountable democracy we gather together from across the country in the city of Hyderabad to celebrate our victories, and squarely face current challenges. In this Fourth National NCPRI Convention on the People’s Right to Information, we re-affirm our commitment to protect the democratic rights of people. We pledge in particular to struggle to make a reality the following resolutions contained in the Hyderabad Declaration dated February 17, 2013 –
WE, THE PARTICIPANTS OF THE FOURTH NATIONAL RTI CONVENTION, WHILE ENDORSING THE SHILLONG DECLARATION OF 2011, HEREBY DECLARE THAT
- Several serious problems are plaguing the functioning of Information Commissions across the country which must be urgently addressed by the appropriate authorities. Several Information Commissions have stopped functioning after the September 2012 (Namit Sharma) judgment of the Supreme Court regarding the appointment of Information Commissioners. We demand that all Information Commissions must immediately resume functioning. The Governments must fill up vacant positions in a transparent manner as the pendency is reaching alarming levels denying people their fundamental right to information. The number of Information Commissioners must be determined through an assessment of the workload in each Commission. We demand that the Namit Sharma judgment be reviewed immediately.
- Even after more than seven years of enactment of the RTI law, governments have failed in fulfilling their obligation to proactively provide information to people under Section 4 of the RTI Act. All public authorities must urgently fulfill this responsibility. We demand that the Government of India immediately make public, approve and implement the Report of the Task Force on Section 4 implementation set up by the DoPT in 2011.
- Parliament must enact an effective whistleblower protection law immediately. It is the moral responsibility of the Government to protect RTI activists and users, and take swift legal action against those responsible for these attacks. It is also the obligation of governments and information commissions to ensure that, whenever an applicant is attacked, the information that was being sought by the assaulted applicant is urgently and on a priority basis, put in the public domain and followed up. All persons seeking information in public interest must be treated as human rights defenders.
- In order to move from transparency to accountability, there is an urgent need for the Parliament to enact laws necessary to effectively combat corruption and the abuse of power. The proposed legislation on Lokpal and Lokayuktas must be enacted without further delay. We demand that Parliament immediately enact an effective grievance redress law. The Judicial Accountability Bill and the proposed National Judicial Commission must be legislated by Parliament.
- Governments must pay particular attention to the effective implementation of the RTI Act and other transparency and accountability measures in conflict affected areas in order to ensure better protection of human rights, particularly of the disadvantaged and vulnerable segments of society. We demand that the repeal of AFSPA and other legislative provisions which curtail democratic rights of people including the right to information.
- We condemn the arbitrary use of Section 24 of the RTI Act to exempt bodies such as the CBI, anti-corruption agencies, security and intelligence agencies. As the exemptions under Section 8 are adequate, the list of agencies notified under this Section must be immediately withdrawn.
- We demand that all laws enacted by Parliament and the State Legislatures conform to the regime of transparency established by the RTI Act. We demand the immediate withdrawal of provisions in any law, Bill, rule, regulation, or executive order that curtail people’s fundamental right to information.
- We demand that all Governments immediately put in place a legally mandated process by which any draft legislation or international treaty is tabled in Parliament or the State Legislatures only after extensive public consultation. All government policies must also be formulated through a similar consultative process.
- We are deeply concerned about the all pervading influence and control of the corporate sector over all structures of decision making in Government. All public authorities must take immediate steps to ensure transparency in the functioning of private entities that utilise public resources or provide public services. Information about public private partnership projects must be accessible under the RTI Act at every stage.
- We demand that all NGOs, Cooperative societies, Trade Unions, and Religious institutions must be transparent about their income and expenditure.
- We demand that all Government funded programmes must be subject to social/public audits conducted under the aegis of an independent authority.
- We demand that all details of income, donations and expenses of political parties be made public regularly.
- We believe that all natural resources belong to the people. We demand equity and people’s participation in decision making combined with complete transparency, accountability in the management and use of all natural resources. All draft MOUs and leases must be proactively disclosed.
- We demand transparency in the ownership and source of funds of all media agencies. Methods of enforcing accountability of the media industry to the people must be explored, while protecting the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution.
- We are deeply concerned about the government’s campaign to collect personal data of citizens in a compulsory manner and the implications of the UID/ Aadhaar on the transparency and accountability regime. We demand that the UID/ Aadhaar process be halted immediately and a debate be initiated amongst the people and in parliament to fully discuss its implications.
- We affirm all resolutions passed at the workshops (annexed to this Declaration) held at the Hyderabad Convention, 2013.
The NCPRI Convention authorizes the co-conveners and the working committee to suitably alter the resolutions for style and substances while keeping the spirit of the resolutions intact.