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PM and Sonia Gandhi at loggerheads on RTI Act amendment

April 09, 2010 21:34 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi seem to have different views on changes in the Right to Information Act with the former saying "some issues" cannot be sorted without making amendments and the latter holding that this is not required.

In a letter to Singh on November 10, 2009, Gandhi said, "In my opinion, there is no need for changes or amendments.

"The only exceptions permitted, such as national security, are already well taken care of in the legislation," she said.

She said the law is just four years old and will take time before "before the momentum generated by the act makes for greater transparency and accountability in the structures of the government".

"But the process has begun and must be strengthened," Gandhi said in her letter.

"It is important, therefore, that we adhere strictly to its original aims and refrain from accepting or introducing changes in the legislation...that would dilute its purpose," the United Progressive Alliance chairperson wrote.

She said the problems like "lack of awareness" about the act and "harassment" of the RTI applicants should be addressed first.

In his reply, accessed by activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal under the RTI Act, the prime minister on December 24 said there are "some issues that cannot be dealt with except by amending the act".

"...The act does not provide for the constitution of benches of the Central Information Commission though this is how the business of the commission is being conducted. There is no provision about alternate arrangements in the event of a sudden vacancy in the office of the chief information commissioner," Singh wrote.

"The chief justice of India has pointed out that the independence of the higher judiciary needs to be safeguarded in the implementation of the Act. There are some issues relating to cabinet papers and internal discussions," he said.

He however assured Gandhi that that a decision will be taken after consultations with all stakeholders without diluting the spirit of the act.
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