Right to Information Act was a marvel in a country that boasted unbreachable barriers between the ruler and the ruled. It was outside the imagination of the ordinary folk raised in a cloistered environment of fear and secrecy that they could actually call for and obtain records of decisions that critically impacted their lives. Yet in only seven years, the RTI law has not just penetrated the fortress that was official India, but more miraculously, acquired a resilience that its authors could not have envisaged.
It is testimony to the Act’s strong survival instinct that last week the Union Cabinet finally withdrew a set of draft amendments to the Act which it cleared in 2006 but did not place before Parliament for fear of alienating the growing army of RTI stakeholders: citizens, activists and information commissioners.
Two among the proposed amendments were potentially lethal: Disallowing access to government file notings in all areas except those deemed to be falling in the category of social and development, and placing ongoing executive decisions entirely outside the purview of the Act. Had the amendments gone through, they would have virtually rendered the government out of bounds for any RTI query, more so given that Cabinet papers, including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, are already exempt from disclosure till such time as the decisions are considered final and complete.