Govt record keeping is abysmal: Union Law Minister

The Minister inaugurated the fifth RTI convention in the capital on Monday


Danish Raza | September 13, 2010

Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily has said that the record keeping in government offices has suffered a great neglect since independence. “It is simply abysmal,” said Moily while delivering the inaugural speech at the two day convention ‘RTI: Challenges & Opportunities’ which kicked off in the capital on Monday.
“RTI Act opens the government for public scrutiny. It brings transparency in the government and thereby makes it more effective,” said Moily.
“The Whisleblower Bill which was supposed to be tabled in the parliament in the next winter session would be a path- breaking legislation in the history of India,” he added.
Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who will demit his office by the end of this month, said that even after five years since RTI became an Act, there is not much awareness about the Act in rural India. “We need to extend the reach of the Act to the rural sector,” said Habilullah, who was speaking at the fifth annual RTI convention held in the capital.
The other challenge before the Act, according to Habibullah, is the implementation of implementation of section 4 which calls for suo- motu disclosure of basic information held with the government.
Gopal Krishna Gandhi, former Governor of West Bengal delivered the keynote address in the convention.
Gandhi termed the Act as the most defining and decisive Act in independent India.
Gandhi said that it was wrong on the part of citizens and civil society to expect changes overnight because of the RTI Act. “Please take bureaucracy as a learner. It is learning from the Act. All the activists and the public are the teachers,” said he.
Talking about the RTI applicants Gandhi said that the intentions of the people seeking information under the RTI Act should be clear. “They should respect the spirit of the Act.”
 The convention also witnessed a heated debate on the theme ‘RTI and PPP projects.’
While the Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi was in favour of rules which put all the PPP projects in public domain, Gajendra Haldia, advisor, Planning Commission said that the Information Commission and the courts should decide the same on a case to case basis. “Clarity will come only then they (PPP projects) are tested in a legal forum. Let the course decide and let the law be clearly stated,’ said Haldia.
V. Narayanaswamy, Minister of State for Planning and Parliamentary Affairs hinted that the government may amend the RTI Act in the near future. “We can amend the RTI Act to make it more pro- active. And we need people’s support for that. Even the constitution has been amended so many times,” said he.




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