No Amendments Through the Backdoor : Save the Right to Information Act

Even as we tirelessly debated and agitated over the Lokpal Bill and related issues such as grievance redress, whistleblower protection and judicial standards and accountability in 2011, the Government of India very quietly introduced amendements to the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Government introduced The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill (NSRA Bill) in the Lok Sabha in September 2011. This Bill seeks to add a new exemption to Section 8(1) of the RTI Act about nuclear safety matters and recommends the exclusion of an unspecified number of yet-to-be-established nuclear safety agencies from transparency obligations by placing them in Schedule 2 of the RTI Act. Thanks to information received from friends at PRS-India a couple of weeks ago I woke up to the existence of this Bill.

What is the NSRA Bill all about?
The Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions introduced this Bill (attached) in the Lok Sabha in September 2011. The same Minister is responsible for the administration of the RTI Act also.

This Bill is also available HERE

The Bill seeks to establish a legal framework for strengthening radiation and nuclear safety in India. For more details please see the second attachment.

What amendments to the RTI Act have been proposed?
The NSRA Bill introduces two amendments to the RTI Act under Sections 8 and 24. For more details please see the second attachment.

What are the implications of these proposed amendments?
The proposed amendment to Section 8(1) of the RTI Act is superfluous. The formulation of the proposed exemption also poses problems. The Bill seeks to exclude organisations concerned with nuclear safety that have not yet been established. Such organisations clearly do not fall within the categories of intelligence and security organisations mentioned in Section 24 of the RTI Act. For more details please see the second attachment.

What is the current status of the Bill?
The Bill was referred to the Department-related Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests soon after tabling. The Committee invited comments on the Bill in September itself. The press release issued by the Committee’s secretariat is accessible at: http://164.100.47.5/webcom/MainPage.aspx Friends at PRS-India say that the Committee has completed its hearings in January 2012 and is working on its report. So the report may be finalised any day before the budget session starts.

What can we do to prevent negative amendments to the RTI Act?
There is an urgent need for the entire RTI movement in India to write to the Chairperson and Members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee to reject the amendments proposed to the RTI Act. The list of committee members is given in the second attachment.

Please use the following petition to the Parliamentary Standing Committee:

Citizens' Statement against malicious and cowardly harassment of Dr. S P Udayakumar and his family by Arnab Godwami's channel

  

We strongly condemn the reprehensible manner in which the so-called 'sting operation' against renowned peace and anti-nuclear activist, Dr. S P Udayakumar and his family including his aged parents, wife, and school-going son, has been carried out by Republic TV's reporters.

Through this entire pathetic drama, Arnab Goswami has exposed himself as a gutless and desperate agent of the ruling dispensation, masquerading as a journalist. The nauseatingly sensationalized video being played repeatedly on his television channel, exposes its own lies and vacuousness, as Dr. Udayakumar can be clearly seen denying any request for accepting foreign contributions. He cites the repression unleashed by the government against his principled activism, including his association with the Koodankulam struggle, which is acknowledged as amongst the most long-standing and non-violent and peaceful grassroots peoples’ movement in recent years. In the channel's own video, Dr. Udayakumar is seen saying that anyone can contribute to the 'Green Tamils' party with proper receipts.

This episode marks a new low even for Arnab Goswami’s own abysmal ‘journalistic’ standards.

People's movements and genuine issues related to the daily lives of common people find little space in the media. In place of exposing the Modi government that has failed on all fronts in the past three years, the media is busy ‘exposing’ activists, opposition leaders and inconvenient voices. Entirely false allegations are being raked up and the slightest problems with those opposing this virulent Hindutva ideology and crony regime, are being amplified.

We demand that the Press Council of India put a strict check on such malicious designs. We also request the Editors' Guild and other media organisations to condemn, isolate and discourage such unacceptable attempts of targeted witch-hunts.

[your signature]

1,014 signatures

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You can also send your letter/fax/email ([email protected]) directly addressed to:

The Chairperson
Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on
Science, Technology, Environment and Forests
Rajya Sabha Secretariat,
Room No. 005, Ground Floor,
Parliament House Annexe,
New Delhi-110001.
Tel.: 011-23034597 Fax: 011-23015585

 

 

No Amendments Through the Backdoor : Save Our RTI Act
Sincerely,
Venkatesh Nayak
Programme Coordinator
Access to Information Programme
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
B-117, First Floor, Sarvodaya Enclave
New Delhi- 110 017
Tel: +91-1143180215/ 43180201
Fax: +91-11-26864688
Website: www.humanrightsinitiative.org
Skype: [email protected]
Alternate Email ID: [email protected]