Data bill suggests key changes to RTI law | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Data bill suggests key changes to RTI law

Nov 21, 2022 07:33 AM IST

The draft of the Digital Data Protection Bill proposes to do away with 8.1 (j) section of the RTI Act, which allows information commissioner to determine if personal information about administration officials can be released in the greater public interest.

The Central government has proposed amending the Right To Information (RTI) Act to protect individual privacy by denying any personal information through an amendment in the proposed data protection law, the draft of which was released on Friday.

This is for the first time the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has proposed changes in the RTI Act related to provisions regarding sharing of information.(Illustration: Jayanto)
This is for the first time the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has proposed changes in the RTI Act related to provisions regarding sharing of information.(Illustration: Jayanto)

The draft of the Digital Data Protection Bill proposes to do away with 8.1 (j) section of the RTI Act, which allows information commissioner to determine if personal information about administration officials can be released in the greater public interest.

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This is for the first time the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has proposed changes in the RTI Act related to provisions regarding sharing of information. The government in 2019 had amended the RTI Act provisions regarding appointment and salaries of the information commissioners by giving itself powers to fix term and salaries of commissioners.

Under RTI Act, information about an individual with the government, including its employees, can be shared following an RTI application provided there is enough ground that this will serve larger public interest.

The information can be shared with the application through a speaking order giving reasons why sharing the information will serve the large public interest. But, almost a third of the total rejections of RTI applications are by invoking section 8.1 (j) and the provision is said to be one of the most misused parts of the law, according to experts.

The proposed Data Protection bill, whose draft was shared by the government with public in Friday, has proposed to drastically change section 8.1 (j).

“The words “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 or 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” shall be omitted,” the draft said.

With this, the amended section 8.1 (j) exemption would read “information which relates to personal information”.

While the data law proposal states this is in order to bring in “consistency”, experts said this could give a cover to corrupt officials.

RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi called the proposal an attempt of the NDA government to weaken the information law. “The present government amended the provisions relating to the status and tenure of the Information Commissions but did not touch the exemptions,” Gandhi said, who described exemptions as “well crafted” to provide balanced information to people.

“If the section 8.1 (j) is deleted it would weaken the law and would aide those against whom there are allegations of corruption. If this amendment is made, all information that can be related to a person may be denied. Most information relates to a person and hence the law would become a Right to Deny for public information officers (PIO) who do not wish to give information,” he said.

The proposed data protection law also provides for deletion of section 43A of the Information Technology Act dealing with compensation to protect data as this area would be covered under the new proposed law.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Chetan Chauhan is National Affairs Editor. A journalist for over two decades, he has written extensively on social sector and politics with special focus on environment and political economy.

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