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

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Running Down a Positive Law

The prime minister's constant criticism of the RTI is unhelpful.

Why is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh so worried that the Right to Information (RTI) Act encroaches on the right to privacy of an individual? Speaking at the seventh annual meeting of information commissioners in New Delhi recently, the prime minister suggested that the citizen’s right to know should be “circumscribed” if it encroached on someone’s privacy and that the government was thinking of a separate law on the right to privacy. Whose privacy was the prime minister worrying about? Could it be, given the timing of this comment, that the concern arose after revelations by Arvind Kejriwal and his anti-corruption brigade about the allegedly dubious land dealings of a certain “private individual” called Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of the most powerful woman in this country, Sonia Gandhi?

Even if one resists the temptation of drawing such a conclusion, we must question why the prime minister repeatedly harps on the negative aspects of the RTI instead of lauding this groundbreaking legislation. In any case, the right to privacy is implicit in Section 8(1)(J) of the law giving information officers the right to reject an application if the information demanded consists of details about an individual that will serve no public purpose. Since the law came into effect, there have been innumerable rulings available as part of public record that have adhered to this section.

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