RTI law Amendments Proposed by Data Bill

21 November, 2022 | Pranay Lad

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The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) administration is making revisions to the RTI Act's information-sharing clauses for the first time.

The 8.1(j) provision of the RTI Act, which empowers the information commissioner to decide whether personal information about administration employees can be shared in the larger public interest, is proposed to be repealed in the draught of the Digital Data Protection Bill.

The proposed data protection bill, a draft of which was posted on Friday, would change the Right To Information (RTI) Act to safeguard individual privacy by prohibiting the disclosure of any personal information.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) administration is making revisions to the RTI Act’s information-sharing clauses for the first time.

The RTI Act’s provisions relating to the appointment and compensation of information commissioners were revised by the government in 2019 by granting it the authority to choose the commissioners’ terms of office and salary.

In accordance with the RTI Act, information held by the government, including that of its workers, may be disclosed in response to an RTI application if there is sufficient evidence that doing so will advance the public good.

A spoken order explaining why disclosing the information will benefit the general public interest can be used to disclose the information with the applicant. However, analysts claim that section 8.1 (j), which is one of the most often exploited aspects of the legislation, is used to deny about a third of all RTI applications.

Section 8.1 of the proposed Data Protection Bill, a draught of which the government shared with the public on Friday, would be significantly altered (j).

The draught stated that the phrase “the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual, unless the Central Public Information Officer, the State Public Information Officer, or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information” should be removed.

As a result, “information that pertains to personal information” would replace “information” under the new section 8.1(j) exception.

Although the data legislation proposal claims that this is necessary for “consistency,” experts warned that this might serve as a cover for dishonest authorities.

Shailesh Gandhi, a proponent of the right to information, dubbed the idea a move by the NDA administration to undermine the legislation. Gandhi stated that the exclusions were “fully drafted” to give the public accurate information and that the current administration only changed the sections pertaining to the status and terms of the information commissions.

“Removing section 8.1(j) will undermine the legislation and benefit individuals who are the target of corruption charges. All information that can be linked to a person may be rejected if this change is made.

Since most information is personal, public information officers (PIOs) who don’t want to provide information would have a legal right to refuse, he claimed.

As this topic would be handled by the new proposed law, the proposed data protection law also calls for the repeal of section 43A of the Information Technology Act, which deals with compensation for data protection.