Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) has initiated action on a proposal to review the Second Schedule to the RTI Act, 2005 which contains the names of security and intelligence organizations exempt from its purview, with a view to strengthen the RTI Act. It is being examined whether some of the organizations could be deleted from the Schedule.
Another proposal under examination of the Department is to add some more categories of information to the list given in section 4 (1) of the Act which all public authorities are required to publish suo motu. This will enable greater proactive disclosures by public authorities.
The law officers of the Government pointed out that there is no provision in the RTI Act enabling the Commission to decide the cases through Benches. So as to ensure that nothing legally wrong is done, the Government advised the Information Commission that decisions on the appeals/complaints should be taken by the Commission and not by the Benches of the Commission.
Some parties, without understanding the intricacies of law, have been trying to create an impression that Government is trying to limit the powers of the Commission, which is far from the truth. The only concern of the Government in the matter is that nothing illegal should be done. However, the Government is considering suitable amendments in the Act in order to enable the Commissions to function through Benches.
The Government of India has launched a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in October, 2008 which aims at strengthening of the State Information Commissions by providing funds for their IT enablement and propagation of RTI. Funds have already been released to 19 State Information Commissions so far.
The scheme also proposes to impart training to various stake-holders through the Administrative Training Institutes and to create awareness through the Department of Posts, the Directorate of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP) and the NCERT.
83,000 stakeholders have already been trained under the UNDP funded ‘Capacity Building for Access to Information Programme’ launched in 2005. With the purpose of understanding the weaknesses and strengths of the system of implementing the provisions of the RTI Act, the Government had a study done through an independent private organization.
The study recommended measures for enhancing accountability and clarity of role of various stake holders; improving RTI awareness; improving convenience in filing requests; enhancing infrastructure and capacity building; improving efficiency at Information Commissions; institutionalising Third Party audit. Government has already acted upon some of the recommendations made by the study.
The enactment of the Right to Information Act, 2005 is a momentous step towards transparency in the functioning of the Government and the Government is committed to make it a success and strengthen it further. The Department of Personnel & Training has recently clarified through an Office Memorandum that file notings are to be disclosed.
The address of the President to the Joint session of the Parliament reiterates the commitment of the Government to initiate action within 100 days for strengthening the right to information by suitably amending the law.