“Forward ever, backward never: onwards with Breaking Through”
Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) as aimed at “inciting more attacks on RTI activists"
New Delhi: Right to Information (RTI) activists and researchers have taken exception to some of the proposed changes to the Right to Information Rules 2017.
One activist described the changes suggested by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) as aimed at “inciting more attacks on RTI activists” and “far from the NDA’s digital revolution idea”.
The reactions are coming in thick and fast after the DoPT put up the proposed changes on its website, inviting comments from publicVenkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, told News18 that the proposed clause in the rules which specifies withdrawal and abatement of appeals in case of death of an applicant is nothing short of a ‘death sentence’.

“In 2011, the DoPT had proposed a similar provision that was vehemently opposed by the civil society. Both measures were eventually dropped after civil rights activists highlighted media reports of murder attempts on RTI applicants who sought information in public interest. In 2017, there have been more than 375 recorded instances of attacks on citizens who sought information to expose corruption and wrongdoing in various public authorities. Of these, 56 are murders, at least 157 cases of physical assault and more than 160 cases of harassment and threats some of which have resulted in death by suicide,” said Nayak.
Dr. Anand Rai, RTI activist and the Vyapam scam whistleblower, opposed the clause, saying it would cause uncertainty among RTI applicants.
“This could prove very dangerous because people who do not want specific disclosures to be made can just get the applicant killed or murdered. Even the proposal to charge Re1 as postal fee is unreasonable,” said Rai.
Nayak also pointed out that the rules were a far cry from the NDA government’s push for digital revolution.
Draft Rule 4 continues to prescribe fees for providing information in the form of 'diskettes and floppies'. According to Nayak, “Both forms of electronic storage have become outdated.”
“The DoPT is directly under the Prime Minister who is pushing India towards the digital age in the TINA mode (There Is No Alternative mode) without ascertaining whether people want it, and if there is adequate infrastructure and awareness for such an initiative. It must discard floppies and diskettes and adopt more modern methods of information storage,” said Nayak.

The other controversial clause in the proposed rules is the one which now allows the Central Information Commission (CIC) to convert a complaint into a second appeal, meaning it can order the disclosure of information to an applicant who has come under complaint clause of the RTI Act which was not the case earlier.

However, both Nayak and Rai seem to differ on the applicability of this provision. Although Rai feels that this proposition would now mend pendency and also expedite the process of filing a second appeal, Nayak said that appeals and complaints mechanism is being turned into complicated legal procedures.

“Instead, the Rule should specify that a copy of the complaint/appeal should be transmitted to the public authority concerned simultaneously or after submission to the CIC with proof to be shown at the time of hearing,” said Nayak.
RTI activists have also taken note of the positive developments in the draft rules.
Nayak told News18 that although “60-65% of the rules should be re-drafted”, there were indeed some merit in the new rules.
“For instance, there is a provision for dealing with non-compliance of the orders and directives of the Central Information Commission. Besides, non-compliance cases can be posted before a larger bench of CIG too. The rule, which makes it mandatory for the public authority to serve an advance copy of its counter to an appeal or complaint on the appellant/complainant, is also a positive development,” said Nayak
 source .www.news18.com/