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HindustanTimes Wed,23 Apr 2014

Prime Minister wants relook at RTI 'grey areas'

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 14, 2011
First Published: 10:46 IST(14/10/2011) | Last Updated: 01:33 IST(15/10/2011)

The debate over the need for changes in the six-year-old transparency law got more intense Friday, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calling for a relook at "certain grey areas" in the RTI act and civil society opposing any change without "credible evidence".

Top official of an umbrella body of public sector units took the debate a step ahead, saying the Right To Information was hurting the Indian growth story.

"Gross domestic product (GDP) would have grown by another 2% if there would have been no RTI delays," UD Choubey, director-general of standing conference of public enterprises (Scope) said, without explaining how the figure had been arrived at.

The act had been effective but there were "concerns that it could discourage honest, well-meaning public servants from giving full expression to their views" fearing distortions, the PM said in his inaugural address at a conference celebrating six years of the watershed law.

"…we must take a critical look at it (RTI). There are concerns that needed to be discussed and addressed honestly," he said. He, however, said he was not if favour of diluting the law.

RTI applications on issues not of public interest and aimed at burdening government resources were identified as another area of concern by Singh, whose government enacted the law in 2005.

He said the law should also deal with privacy issues. The RTI act doesn't clearly prohibits applicants from seeking private information about a public servant.

The government should present "credible evidence" to back its claims, said Aruna Roy, a member of the National Advisory Council.

"RTI should get constitutional validity and all laws should be tuned to meet RTI goals," she said.

Corporate sector and non-government organisations should also be covered by the act, said Scope's Choubey, adding corruption was "not monopoly of the government".

The BJP accused the PM of trying to dilute the RTI act.

"Is the government now scared of the RTI act?" spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

Roy's National Campaign for People's Right to Information said Team Anna, too, was against any changes without "sufficient reason".

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