The Department of Science and Technology has said that the proposed National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority will be the final authority in deciding whether particular information should be disclosed or not, undermining the Right to Information law.
Under the RTI act, the Central Information Commission is the final authority that decides on what information can or cannot be disclosed. The panel’s decision can be challenged in the high court.
“It (the draft bill) is several steps backwards in ensuring transparency in biotechnology science,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of NGO Kheti Virasat Mission.
In the 2008 draft bill, there was no mention of the RTI law. In the 2009 draft, the RTI law is dealt with in detail.
It was only after the 2008 version came out that the committee struck down the government’s objections to disclosing Bt brinjal data, saying it should be revealed in public interest.
Information on the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee website was questioned
by many scientists, including P.M. Bhargava, a GEAC member.
But the department, in the draft National Biotechnology Regulatory Bill, had said that the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, would not be applicable to the new authority, which will have powers to describe any information as “confidential”.
“Disclosure of confidential commercial information, such information shall, notwithstanding anything contained in the Right to Information Act, 2005, be retained as confidential by the authority and not be disclosed to any other party,” reads Section 27 (1).
The government expects to introduce the bill in the second half of the budget session.