‘Con­tin­ued po­lit­i­cal as­sault on RTI Act is wor­ri­some’

Aruna Roy says leg­is­la­tion is be­ing sub­verted ‘by us­ing rules’

The Hindu - - TAMIL NADU - Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

Aruna Roy, a for­mer mem­ber of the Na­tional Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil, said on Mon­day that she was wor­ried about the con­tin­ued po­lit­i­cal as­sault on the Right to In­for­ma­tion Act.

Ms. Roy, one of the lead­ers of the Right to In­for­ma­tion move­ment, was speak­ing at a pub­lic dis­cus­sion on In­for­ma­tion as Em­pow­er­ment. She dis­cussed her book The RTI Story: Power

to the Peo­ple with Gopalkr­ishna Gandhi, for­mer Gover­nor of West Ben­gal, at an event or­gan­ised at the Si­vagami Pethachi Au­di­to­rium by The Hindu Cen­tre.

Ms. Roy said she was not un­duly wor­ried about the few who mis­use the RTI Act. “I am far more both­ered about the po­lit­i­cal man­ner in which Par­lia­ment is re­duc­ing the law to noth­ing. Not by amend­ment, but by us­ing rules,” she said. Ms. Roy called the pro­posed rule, which moves to close RTI cases af­ter the ap­pli­cants’ deaths, as a “death war­rant” to in­for­ma­tion seek­ers.

She said that it was time for the RTI cam­paign­ers to re­group. “There is an at­tack on the RTI planned in the po­lit­i­cal arena. Very sys­tem­atic and ex­tremely clever. I won’t use the word in­tel­li­gent. I feel in­tel­li­gence also has a moral com­po­nent. This is sim­ply cheat­ing your own peo­ple,” she said.

Ms. Roy added that the gov­ern­ment was wor­ried about be­ing asked tough ques­tions. “The knee-jerk re­ac­tion of the gov­ern­ment is be­cause they re­alise in­for­ma­tion shar­ing is shar­ing power,” she said.

“The Prime Min­is­ter has said that this gov­ern­ment wants to bring down the sta­tus of In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sion­ers. What hap­pens then is that, from be­ing equiv­a­lent to judges, they be­come Sec­re­taries of the gov­ern­ment,” she said.

Role of Gover­nors

Mr. Gandhi, who re­peat­edly ex­pressed con­cern over the deaths of in­for­ma­tion seek­ers, said that Ms. Roy’s cam­paign was vi­tal. “The cam­paign for the RTI is as im­por­tant as the Act it­self. It is the cam­paign that keeps the RTI true to its orig­i­nal pur­pose...A cam­paign will have to be kept go­ing to keep the RTI Act vi­tal. With­out that, the risk of the RTI Act get­ting sub­verted is very strong,” he said.

“A Gover­nor should not want to at­tract at­ten­tion to her­self or him­self. If that is the aim of a Gover­nor, then ad­min­is­tra­tion in a State will grind to a halt. But it is im­por­tant for the Gover­nors and the Lok Ayuk­tas to be seen to be in­quis­i­tive about the state of in­tegrity in their ju­ris­dic­tion. They don’t have to run down any depart­ment or project or un­der­tak­ing. All they have to do is to ask what has hap­pened. When that ques­tion is asked and that fol­lows the grain of pub­lic opin­ion, then those who have to an­swer will an­swer,” said Mr. Gandhi.

Aruna Roy

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