The Department of Personnel & Training has invited comments on a new set of Draft Rules to implement The Right to Information Act, 2005.
The RTI Act was last amended in 2012 after a long period of consultation with various stakeholders.
Commenting on the nature of the Draft RTI rules, Venkatesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said, “There are positive aspects of the draft rule that has to be appreciated like provision for dealing with non- compliance of the orders and directives of the Central Information Commission by public authorities, posting of non-compliance cases involving public interest before larger benches of the CIC, procedure for filing complaints under Section 18(1) of the RTI Act, prescription of formats for filing appeals and complaints without making them mandatory. "
However, the RTI expert, Venkatesh, asserted that the New Draft has more problems than positive features and that with the whistleblower protection law put in cold storage with regressive amendments the Centre’s proposal will increase attacks on RTI users and activists.
Pointing out the negative aspects of the Draft RTI Rules, Venkatesh said, “To begin with, the very approach to the Rule-making exercise has not moved from a bureaucratic one to a citizen–friendly one. Some of the new proposals seem to be inspired by the overtly bureaucratic and are largely citizen unfriendly."
In an analytical statement, CHRI pointed at the following problems in the New Draft: "Allowance for the withdrawal and abatement is like a death sentence, draft rule 12 seeks to empower the CIC to permit withdrawal of an appeal if an appellant makes a written request. By legally permitting withdrawal of appeals vested interests will feel emboldened to pressurise RTI users to withdraw their appeals before the CIC. Turning appeals and complaints procedures into complex court procedures. Mandatory requirements of an RTI application in complaint cases. No person other than a designated officer should decide first appeals. No time limits for serving notice of hearings on appellants and complainants. DOPT does not seem to be keeping up with NDA's digital revolution."
The human rights organisation also pointed out what is missing from amendment proposals and what should have been there.
No procedure for deciding first appeals. No rules for deciding appeals in life and liberty cases. No time for CIC to decide cases among others.
Venkatesh Nayak called the consultation very elitist, “The DoPT’s notification states ( In English) that comments may be offered on the Draft RTI rules, 2017, only via email by 15th April, 2017.”