Transparency over privacy: Draft data bill will weaken RTI, say experts
The RTI Act exempted Ten categories of information from disclosure to prevent harm to certain interests and ensure the smooth working of the government.
Published: 06th February 2023 07:52 AM | Last Updated: 06th February 2023 07:52 AM | A+A A-
NEW DELHI: To be introduced in the second leg of Budget 2023, the proposed Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Bill 2022 is designed to weaken India’s landmark transparency law, experts have maintained. The proposed bill emphasised ‘privacy’ over ‘transparency’ said many experts who interpreted the bill as an effort to empower the government to deny the information to the people in the name of privacy.
India’s Right To Information (RTI Act) is considered one of the world’s best transparency laws. It empowers the citizens and recognises their has the right to access nearly all information with the government.
The RTI Act exempted Ten categories of information from disclosure to prevent harm to certain interests and ensure the smooth working of the government. These are outlined in Section 8 (1) with the ten subsections from a) to j).
For instance, the RTI Act 8(1)(j) sub-section empowers the authority to release personal data for larger public benefits. “Many refusals of information did not adhere to the law but refused information with a bland statement that since it was personal information they would not give it,” Shailesh Gandhi, former Chief Information Commission, told this newspaper. “This has been widely used to cover arbitrary, corrupt or illegal acts of government officials” he adds.
“Most information except budgets would be linked to one of these, and the RTI would become a Right to Deny Information, rendering it as an ineffective tool,” says Anjali Bhardwaj, national convenor of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI).
NCPRI had submitted its feedback to the bill when the Union MeitY kept it in public for consultation between 18 November-17 December 2022. Later, the MeitY extend the date till 2 January 2023.
During a public consultation organised by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Union Minister of State Electronics and IT on 23 December, Gandhi raised the contentious DPDP’s provision to the minister through virtual participation. Gandhi claimed that consultation meeting link was not shared with him.