Shri Manmohan Singh Prime Minister Government of India August 19, 2013 Dear Shri Manmohan Singhji

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Subject: Request to refer RTI Amendments Bill to a Parliamentary Standing or Select Committee to facilitate widespread public consultation on the issue

We would like to thank you for giving us time to meet you on this most important issue of the RTI Amendments. The enactment and implementation of the Right to Information Act 2005 is considered one of the most significant achievements of your government. The Act has enabled the citizens of India to make informed choices and strengthened participatory democracy in the country. The multiple and varied applications of the Act to improve government functioning are so many that they defy enumeration. The legislation has helped us end a culture of secrecy in governance and enabled Indian democracy to begin to move towards a system of open and transparent government. Most importantly, as you so powerfully stated in your Independence Day address “Through the RTI Act, the common man (sic person) now gets more information than ever before about the work of the government...The Act brings to light irregularities and corruption and opens the door for improvements.” Any amendment that dilutes the people’s right to information would weaken this important avenue of reform, and even undermine the process of realizing constitutional promises. There have been a series of attempts to amend the Act since 2006, which have been nullified by public pressure, and the political will of a part of the establishment and government. It is not often that there is a legislation that has become so popular and has been so resolutely defended by the ordinary citizen.

The introduction of the RTI Amendments Bill in Parliament, as a reaction to the recent Central Information Commission order, has raised widespread suspicion among citizens that the political establishment is attempting to cover acts of corruption and arbitrary use of power. This belief is being further reinforced by the fact that there have been no public consultations on the amendments. We understand that political parties have some legitimate concerns that this order could impinge on political activity. However, we feel that informed dialogue and consultation could have resulted in a solution that did not allow dilution of the RTI Act, and in fact helped strengthen the functioning of all public bodies, including political organisations. We feel that the CIC order could have been used to open the door for improving the political and electoral system and to bring to light the corruption and irregularities that are plaguing it. Over one lakh people from across the country, have signed an online petition urging you to not amend the RTI law (attached), and there are numerous other petitions with the same message addressed to different authorities that are gaining momentum and popularity. Since the RTI Amendment Bill has already been tabled in Parliament, we urge you to prevent the Bill from being put to vote in a hasty manner. We request you to ensure that the Amendment Bill is referred to a Standing Committee of Parliament or a Select Committee of the Lok Sabha, to facilitate widespread public consultation on the issue. You will recall that your government made an assurance in Parliament in 2009 that the RTI Act will not be amended without public consultation. It would be a travesty of this assurance if such an important issue, which has drawn a sharp public outcry were to be passed without deliberation and consultation in the Parliamentary Standing Committee. We are confident that your government will take necessary steps to ensure that the RTI Amendment Bill is referred to a Parliamentary Standing or Select Committee to enable wide public consultation on the Bill. We are sure that such a process of dialogue and deliberation both within, and outside parliament, would prevent the dilution of the Right to Information law. It would also help sustain and strengthen India’s new transparency regime which has been acknowledged across the world as a powerful affirmation of the right of Indian citizens to participate in, and monitor democratic governance. With regards. Yours sincerely,

Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Anjali Bhardwaj (On behalf of the NCPRI)

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