RTI can’t prevail over right to privacy, says PM
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday cautioned against the "frivolous" and "vexatious" use of the RTI Act, saying that the citizens' right to know should be circumscribed if it encroaches on an individual's privacy.
He also warned against blanket extension of RTI to bodies like public-private partnerships, as this "may discourage private enterprises" from partnerships with the public sector.
Inaugurating the seventh National RTI Conference organised by the Central Information Commission, the PM said: "There is a fine balance required... between the right to information and the right to privacy, which stems out of the fundamental right to life and liberty. The citizens' right to know should definitely be circumscribed if disclosure of information encroaches upon someone's personal privacy. But where to draw the line is a complicated question."
Singh had expressed similar concerns, seeking a "critical review" of the RTI Act, at last year's convention.
On Friday, he said: "There are concerns about frivolous and vexatious use of the Act in demanding information the disclosure of which cannot possibly serve any public purpose. Sometimes information covering a long time span or a large number of cases is sought with the objective of discovering an inconsistency or mistake which can be criticised. Such queries besides serving little productive purpose are also a drain on the resources of the public authorities, diverting precious man hours."
While warning against "blanket extension" of the Act to PPPs, Singh said that "blanket exclusion may harm accountability of public officials".
Seeking a "more constructive and productive use of RTI", the PM said: "This... should not only be about criticising, ridiculing and running down public authorities... the ultimate goal of the legislation is to induce more efficiency in the work of the government and help it serve the people better."
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