Activists demand intelligence, para-military forces answer RTIs


New Delhi : Activists and government representatives met here to discuss ways to make the dissemination process under the Right To Information (RTI) Act more transparent and accountable and demanded that intelligence agencies and the paramilitary forces respond to queries under the law.

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A two day national conference – ‘National Security and People’s Right to Information in India – The Lady Godiva Syndrome’ – organized by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Indian Institute of Public Administration opened here Sunday.

“We are developing a set of principles that can guide decision-making on information requests relating to national security,” Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator of CHRI told IANS.

“We want intelligence and para-military forces not to refuse to answer RTIs, especially those pertaining to corruption and human rights, by claiming that the information will be a threat to national security,” he added.

Nayak said that a statutory body must be in place to keep watch on government departments who refuse to answer even those queries not related to national security, and the reasons given by them must be justified.

The participants discussed and shared case studies where several defence and intelligence agencies refused to answer their RTIs by unnecessarily relating them to national security.

The conference also took stock of the decisions of information commissions and courts regarding information access disputes relating to national security.

Nayak informed that CHRI is part of a world-wide coalition of organisations engaged in developing a set of principles to guide decision-making on information requests involving national security.

“At this conference, we propose to discuss and refine these draft principles with reference to the Indian experience,” Nayak added.