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India: Prime Minister Must Save RTI Act From Amendments

India: Prime Minister Must Save RTI Act From Amendments

(Hong Kong, July 31, 2012) The Asian Human Rights Commission fully endorses the following petition issued by the National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI) India. Online petition can be found and signed at http://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/shri-manmohan-singh-prime-minister-government-of-india-save-rti-act-from-amendments.  Following is the full text of the petition.

To: Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister, Government of India

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

India's governance is going through a credibility crisis as never before, in which all sectors of governance and social formations have been suspect. The political establishment has come in for most severe criticism, just and unjust.

Perhaps the only real argument for the credibility of the government continues to be the enactment and implementation of the RTI Act. It has been an entitlement which has kept the intent of a free and open system of governance afloat. The multiple uses of the Act to improve government functioning are so many that they defy enumeration. The use of the RTI is therefore seen as the one stated intent of the government to lay itself open to scrutiny, and therefore accountability.

The series of attempts to amend the Act, which have arisen periodically, have since 2006 been nullified to a large extent by public pressure as well as the political will of a part of the establishment and government.

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It is reported that the Government is considering the introduction of a bill in Parliament to amend the RTI law, as a sharp reaction to the recent Central Information Commission order, which declared six political parties to be public authorities under the RTI Act. Such a move to amend the Act will reinforce and confirm the suspicions of many that the political establishment intends to cover acts of corruption and arbitrary use of power.

We, as citizens of India, empowered by the RTI Act, demand that it not be amended. The Act has enabled the making of informed choices and strengthened participatory democracy; by enabling the citizens of India to monitor and access services throughout the country. Any amendment to the RTI Act would undermine and weaken the process of realizing various constitutional promises. In 2009, when amendments were being proposed to the RTI Act, the concerned minister of the government had assured Parliament, in response to a question, that "Non- Governmental Organisations and Social activists will be consulted on the proposed amendments." We would, therefore, expect the government to hold wide ranging public discussions before they think of amending the law in any way.

We are confident that the government will recognise the force of our demand and not take steps to amend and thereby dilute the Right to Information law, which has been acknowledged in India and abroad, as an affirmation of the right of Indian citizens to participate in, and monitor, democratic governance.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

ENDS

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