RTI law being grossly misused, says former CJI Balakrishnan

Friday, October 29, 2010

NEW DELHI - Former chief justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan Friday said the Right To Information (RTI) Act “was grossly misused” and needed amending to prevent the misuse.

“It is time for introspection on the five-year-old RTI Act. It is grossly misused. Most of the applicants are applying the RTI not for public good, but for misuse,” Balakrishnan said at a seminar on “RTI-Key to good governance”, organised by the Institute of Secretariat Training and Management.

Balakrishnan, currently the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), said the RTI needed some amendments to prevent the misuse.

“It is not that we need to abolish or discard the RTI Act. But some changes have to be made to prevent the misuse,” he added.

The RTI law should should help to ensure equitable and inclusive growth, he said, noting mere economic growth is not an achievement.

“Development should improve the well-being of the people, especially at the bottom line,” he said, recalling how RTI activists in Rajasthan could expose those siphoning off public funds in the name of old age pension and widows pension.

Speaking at the event, Chief Information Commissioner A.N. Tiwari said RTI should be saved from “an upsurge of emotions”.

Admitting that RTI had some weakness as it was the “outgrowth of judicial intervention and has a legalistic framework,” he said the RTI Act was facing divergent challenges.

“On the one hand, the aspiration of people to access information was on the upswing while on the other hand, officials need confidentiality to run the system,” he said.

Tiwari said there were different categories of people frequenting the RTI system.

“The first category is those who want to pull down the high and mighty and want to know whether wealth was amassed by the authorities or corruption was practised. The second set is those who want to know how the government used its discretion in policy matters,” he said.

The third category, or “bread and butter” group, want to know about the fate of their provident fund accounts and pension papers, he said.

According to Tiwari, the fourth group, mostly officials facing vigilance probes or disciplinary actions, were misusing the RTI system most to find out the moves against them.

“These articulate, English-speaking, powerful group of bureaucrats are the biggest challenge to the RTI system,” he said.

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