The Union government is contemplating a bunch of amendments to its flagship Right to Information (RTI) Act to stop ‘mischievous and frivolous’ queries through the right that is aimed at bringing more transparency in government services.The proposed set of amendments would also try to bring a part of the security establishment under the public scrutiny. Top sources in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government suggest the Indian army or armed forces may not come under the purview but some data related to the paramilitary forces can be given out in the public domain.

RTI activists, however are likely to protest against this move. Activists like Aruna Roy, Nikhil De, Shekhar Singh and Arundhati Roy had already sent an appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not to amend the RTI Act either to keep out ‘frivolous’ applications or to keep out “file noting”.

“We strongly believe it is impossible to define vexatious and frivolous applications. It is not completely subjective and can be misused by officials. We also feel that it is a hollow promise to have legislation for ensuring “transparency” and encouraging “accountability” in governance which excludes the basis on which a decision is taken,” the letter said.

Arvind Kejriwal of Parivartan also feels “any move to keep out frivilous requests for information is tantamount to killing the Act itself.”

But government managers said there are several instances where the RTI act is misused. Recently, in Maharashtra, a member of a below poverty line (BPL) family had sought records on a subject since 1950s.

After thousands and thousands of pages of records were given to him free of cost, those pages were sold off as waste papers.

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February 2024