RTI may deter officials from giving views: PM

Last Updated: Fri, Oct 14, 2011 19:40 hrs

Says too many requests for info not in public interest a concern.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday emphasised the need for a critical look at the RTI Act. The statement comes amidst a debate over the Right to Information (RTI) hampering government work, triggered by the RTI disclosure of a finance ministry note on 2G spectrum.

Speaking for the first time after the controversy, the Prime Minster said concerns had been raised the RTI could end up discouraging honest, well-meaning public servants from fully expressing their views.

“I think we need to remember here that a point of view brought under public scrutiny and discussion in an isolated manner may sometimes present a distorted or incomplete picture of what really happened in the processes of making the final decisions,” he said at the sixth annual convention of information commissioners in the capital.

Singh stressed the RTI should not adversely affect the deliberative processes in the government.

“Even as we recognise and celebrate the efficacy and the effectiveness of the Right to Information Act, we must take a critical look at it. There are concerns that need to be discussed and addressed honestly,” he said. “We must also take a critical look at the exemption clauses in the Act to determine whether they serve the larger good and whether a change is needed in them.”

Chief information commissioner Satyananda Mishra said the exemption clauses in the RTI should be utilised judiciously. Singh said there were issues of privacy and the Act didn’t have provisions to deal with them and there were certain grey areas that required further debate. He reiterated the need to strike a balance between the need for disclosure of information and the limited time and resources available with the public authorities.

“A situation in which a public authority is flooded with requests for information having no bearing on public interest is something not desirable. We must, therefore, pool all our wisdom, our knowledge, and our experience to come to a conclusion on how to deal with vexatious demands for information, without at the same time hindering the flow of information to those whose demands serve public interest,” he said. He said the RTI enabled access to information even from a private party that came under a regulatory framework.

“This assumes added significance in the context of an increasing number of projects being taken up in Public Private Partnership mode... I hope the discussions (at the conference) would also cover the commitment and the responsibility of private sector companies for the dissemination of certain basic information related to their operations,” said Singh.

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