ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Unending Struggle for Right to Information

It is interesting that through five years of dithering over the bill on the right to information, the position of the central governments which has been run by two United Front governments, the BJP and its allies, has remained the same. The bill, as presented in parliament last month hardly does justice to the struggle to bring transparency to issues of governance.

After dithering over it for years, the central government has finally introduced the Freedom of Information Bill, 2000 in parliament on July 25. This itself will have to be considered an achievement. But, the struggle is far from over. In fact, the struggle has just started as the bill, presented in parliament, hardly does justice to the cause.

The very title of the bill is questionable. It is well established that the right to information is a fundamental right. The statement of objects and reasons (SOR) enclosed with the bill states that “the proposed Bill is in accord with both article 19 of the Constitution as well as article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. There is, therefore, no question of watering it down to mere freedom of information which is to be at the whim and fancy of a government functionary. What is given by the Constitution cannot be diluted by a statute. In fact, the objective of the bill should merely be to operationalise the right to information given by the Constitution. The title of the bill should, therefore, more appropriately be Right to Information Bill, 2000 and not the Freedom of Information Bill, 2000 as proposed by the government. Paragraph 5 of the SOR states that the Freedom of Information Act will be consistent with the objective of having a stable, honest, transparent and efficient government. It is not clear how the act is expected to contribute to the stability of the government. The word ‘stable’ in the last but one line of paragraph 5 of the SOR may therefore be deleted.

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