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Repeal of Freedom of Information Act recommended
By J. Venkatesan
NEW DELHI, MARCH 22: The Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances and Law and Justice has recommended repealing of the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 enacted by the Vajpayee Government and suggested a series of amendments to the Right to Information Bill, 2004.
The committee headed by the Congress E.M. Sudarsana Nachiappan, in its report submitted to Parliament on Monday, said that the repeal of the 2002 Act had become necessary since the National Advisory Council, headed by the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, had given several suggestions to make the law more effective.
The committee held detailed discussions on this issue and heard the views and suggestions of prominent NGOs, social groups, experts and individuals. According to the committee, the new law will affirm the government's commitment to citizens to have access to information for effective and better participation in governance and strengthen the institution of democracy. By passing this legislation, India would join the world community having legislation guaranteeing access to information.
The new law envisages creation of an independent non-judicial appellate machinery in the form of Central Information Commission to monitor the implementation of the Act and prepare an annual report to be laid on the table of both Houses of Parliament. It has been suggested that the Information Commissioners and Deputy Information Commissioners be conferred the status of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner respectively.
It suggests that the Act after it is enacted should come into force in 120 days. The law is to be expanded to the State governments also with a provision for setting up of State Information Commission. At present it is applicable to offices of the Central government and the bodies under its control.
The new law envisages designation of Public Information Officers to provide necessary information to the public. Information seekers have been given liberty to request information being furnished in the official language of the area to make access procedure simple. The fee payable by the applicant should be reasonable and should in no case exceed the actual cost of copying the information and those below the poverty line to be given information free of cost.
To ensure accountability of the officials, the Information Commissioner has been empowered to impose a penalty of Rs. 250 for each day's delay in furnishing information to the applicant. The offence would include refusal to receive application for information; malafide denial of request; knowingly giving incorrect, incomplete or wrong information or destroying information.
The report makes it clear that there should not be any blanket exemption for intelligence and security agencies to deny information. Further information should be released where it pertains to allegations of human rights violations besides the allegations of corruption.
Freedom of Information Act, 2002 is available at: