- kewal sethi
review of rti act
Review of RTI Act
PM has called for a review of RTI Act ostensibly in consideration of the honest officers. He need not worry himself on their account. The officers are bound to be targeted in any case. If he writes a note which is correct (politically), he runs afoul of the RTI activist while if records a note which is not correct (politically), he runs afoul of the minister. If the minister is honest, and such instances are rare, the officer will be under attack from the vested interests because they will blame the officer for obstructing, what they will claim to be valid public interest. It is because they will not be able to take on the minister himself.
But it underscores the fact that the honest officer will not be in trouble because of the RTI. His notes will be correct both with respect to facts and views. If they are made public, there is no adverse effect. It is the note of the dishonest officer which will be distorting the facts of the case to suit the views that they express to align with the views of the minister or to benefit certain parties in consideration of benefits which flow from such distortion.
The trouble is that if the opinion of the honest officer is to be overruled, the minister has to be intelligent enough to do it. Of course, he can always borrow or buy the intelligence. But when it comes to be disclosed, he will have to defend it. It is what causes the embarrassment to the powers that be. It is to safeguard them that this review is to take place. PM is correct in saying that it is because of the honest officers that the review is being sought but it is not for his benefit but the benefit of the politician.
Let us consider an analogy. There was a controversy whether the judges be obliged to disclose their assets under RTI Act. While this debate was going on, many of the judges who had nothing to hide, went on the website to disclose, voluntarily, their assets. Just as in the case of D N Tiwari, his refusal to go for DNA test is held to be against him, the reluctance to declare assets can only raise doubts. It may be false notion of privilege but the inference which people may draw is not bound by such niceties of the game. Even the ministers led by PM disclosed their assets without being forced by the RTI Act. (It was a meaningless gesture, since as candidates for Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha, they have to disclose them in any case). revealing of information under RTI Act is never detrimental to the honest.
The conclusion is that RTI Act need not be interfered with because of honest officers. But it needs to be reviewed to avoid exposures which bring bad name to the country. The alternative is not to resort to such eventualities but that is too much to ask. Even the politician has to live (and what is life without a win – in the elections).