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New laws to get around Right To Information act

India's transparency law - the Right To Information Act - will not change but the government wants to restrict its applicability to some areas of sports and nuclear safety through other laws.


Two new draft laws - the National Sports Development Bill and the National Nuclear Safety Authority Bill - have specific provisions prohibiting disclosure of information in addition to the exemption clauses already in the RTI law.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on Friday wanted a "critical look" at the exemption clauses and examination of possible changes in the light of whether they serve "the larger (public) good".


Law minister Salman Khurshid on Sunday ruled out any changes in the RTI law after the PM's statement evoked strong reactions from National Advisory Council member and RTI activist Aruna Roy.


The draft law prepared by the sports ministry - after the  cabinet asked it to "re-cast" the bill last month - proposes that some crucial information be withheld from applicants under the RTI law, which the government had wanted to apply to sports bodies, including the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). These relate to selection of sportspersons, their performance and injuries.


International Cricket Council president Sharad Pawar, who is also agriculture minister, and his cabinet colleagues, renewable energy resources minister Farooq Abdullah and heavy industries minister Praful Patel had objected to the application of the RTI law to cricket.


"The BCCI and sportspersons apprehended that providing such information may give a competitive edge to rivals and also create bad blood among competing sportspersons," sports minister Ajay Maken told HT.


He also explained that the objective of making the RTI law applicable to sports federations was to bring about administrative and financial transparency.


"Without making any compromise on the issues of transparency and good governance, we have tried to accommodate the genuine concerns of the BCCI and other sports federations," Maken said.


The draft law, which will soon be submitted to the cabinet for consideration, also prohibits seeking information regarding doping tests conducted on players and their whereabouts, as objected to by the BCCI.


With these changes, the ministry believes it will be able to get the cabinet's nod to place the legislation in Parliament.


The government also intends to amend the RTI law to exempt the proposed nuclear energy regulator - the National Nuclear Safety Authority - from the ambit of the transparency law.


The draft nuclear safety authority bill approved by the cabinet intends to list the authority among government bodies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation, which are to be taken out of the purview of the transparency law.


In addition, the bill seeks to amend the RTI law to prevent seeking of information on the grounds of "the larger public interest".


The RTI law provides for waiving exemption clauses if there is evidence to claim that providing information would be in the public interest.


Chetan Chauhan

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Published in Constitutional Law
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