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India Proposes RTI Act Exemption on Nuclear Safety

Source: freedominfo.org

Date: 7 February 2012

The government of India has proposed to amend the Right to Information Act to exclude from coverage any nuclear safety agencies created in the future.

The government introduced the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill (NSRA Bill) in September 2011, but its RTI impact has just been highlighted by RTI activists.

The bill seeks to add a new exemption to Section 8(1) of the RTI Act about nuclear safety matters and recommends the exclusion of an unspecified number of yet-to-be-established nuclear safety agencies from transparency obligations by placing them in Schedule 2 of the RTI Act.

The Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, also responsible for the administration of the RTI act, introduced the bill, which aims to establish a legal framework for strengthening radiation and nuclear safety in India.

“The proposed amendment to Section 8(1) of the RTI Act is superfluous. The formulation of the proposed exemption also poses problems. The Bill seeks to exclude organisations concerned with nuclear safety that have not yet been established. Such organisations clearly do not fall within the categories of intelligence and security organisations mentioned in Section 24 of the RTI Act. For more details please see the second attachment,” according to a fact sheet by RTI advocates including the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

 Comments on the bill were requested in September by the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests, hearings were ended in January, and the committee is close to finishing its report.

 RTI advocates have mounted a letter-writing campaign on the issue. The suggested message is:

We the people of India who have been actively using RTI to promote transparency and accountability in government are distressed to learn that the Government of India has proposed amendments to the Right to Information Act, 2005 through The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, 2011. This Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha in September 2011 and has since been referred to your committee. These amendments are unnecessary in view of the adequate protection for all legitimate interests provided under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. The exclusion of special nuclear regulatory authorities referred to in Clause 25 even before they are established by the Government is a clear instance of misuse of Section 24 of the RTI Act. Such bodies by their very nature, purpose and functions cannot be categorised as intelligence and security organisations. We urge you to recommend deletion of all clauses that seek to amend the RTI Act.