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House seeks info cover
- Lok Sabha committee asks Centre to amend RTI law

New Delhi, April 30: The Lok Sabha wants to reserve the right to decide if it should reveal information about House proceedings under the transparency law.

The Lok Sabha privileges committee has asked the government to amend the Right to Information Act to make it mandatory for those seeking information to explain why they want it.

It cited the constitutional provision that the proceedings of Parliament or any of its committees cannot be called in question in any court.

The committee added that the right to decide whether or not to part with any sensitive information should be vested with the Speaker, who would act after consulting it.

In its latest report tabled today, the committee headed by V. Kishore Chandra S. Deo also recommended that the 30-day deadline within which information has to be provided under the transparency law be scrapped in such cases.

If the Speaker feels that the information or documents sought have the “potential” to call in question the proceedings of the House or any of its committees, he may recommend it to the privileges committee for examination.

It would then take its time to review the request and the information would be revealed only if cleared by it and agreed to by the House, the report said.

“(The) Decision taken by the House/Speaker may not be open to review by the chief information commissioner,” the committee said.

The recommendations have once again highlighted the uneasy relationship between the higher judiciary and Parliament.

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and other MPs have frequently asserted that under the Constitution, Parliament has been accorded a pre-eminent position making it supreme in its allotted sphere, and the law courts must not interfere with its functioning.

On condition of anonymity, a member of the privileges committee said most MPs fear the RTI Act might be “misused” by their opponents or others to “settle scores” or for political gain.

Requests for information or documents from courts or investigative agencies earlier had to specify the purpose for which these were required. But after the RTI Act came into force from June 15, 2005, the situation has substantially changed, the committee noted in its report.

According to Section 6 of the law, “an applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him”.

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