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Shailesh Gandhi

14 July 2005

The Maharashtra Chief Secretary has reportedly declared that the Maharashtra Right to Information (MRTI) Act will be repealed in the current session of the state legislature or an ordinance will be issued to repeal it. The Times of India (Mumbai edition) reported this on 13 July, 2005.

The Maharashtra government and the CS appear to be advised wrongly. Repealing MRTI would be a completely retrograde step. At a time when the whole nation is moving towards recognising the citizen's fundamental right to information there can be no rationale for Maharashtra to be in such a tearing hurry to bury MRTI. There are also reports that some officials will not accept MRTI applications from citizens.

As of today, the MRTI law continues to exist and nobody can arbitrarily decide to suspend giving information as per the law. What is the need for the Government to take away the Citizen's right? Union Minister Suresh Pachauri has stated in Parliament that the Central Government had taken the Attorney general's opinion about the State and the Central RTI acts. He said that the Attorney General had given a categorical opinion that both Acts could coexist. Citizens would use the Central Act for Central government bodies and would have the option to use State or Central Act for State bodies.

What is the harm if citizens can chose from both laws? In Maharshtra citizens and public servants have just begun to understand and use the MRTI law with some efficacy, after ironing out some of the difficulties. At this juncture any move to scrap MRTI will lead to a subversion of citizens' rights in the state. It has been stated by the CS that the Central Act is better. If that is clearly so, citizens will stop using the state law once they are comfortable with using the central law.

An ordinance is issued when there is an emergency. What can be the urgency to take away citizens' rights? It will be against the spirit of the RTI Act and also go against the Central Government's assurance and intentions. Governments. It appears that in Maharashtra the government is going ahead with single minded dedication to kill the MRTI. The table below lists some of the arguments on both sides.

Only the Central Right to Information Law should continue and the State Acts must be scrapped State and Central Acts must coexist
1. There are legal issues about whether both Acts can coexist. Minister Pachouri in Parliament said that the Attorney General has opined that both Acts can coexist.
2. The national law is better than all State Acts, hence the State Acts are superfluous. This is not an argument about which Act is better. The citizen will have a choice between the two for state government bodies.
3.All of us should work for a common all-India law. We will work for a good national law, and get the flaws and weaknesses corrected. But if this takes some time, the momentum of RTI in the states already using state laws should not be lost.
4. It will be administratively difficult to have both laws. It will mean more expense. Some administrative inconvenience, and expense is better than the citizen's losing state RTI laws.

Shailesh Gandhi
14 Jul 2005

Shailesh Gandhi is the Chairman and Managing Director of Clear Plastics Limited, Mumbai. He is also the chairman of the IIT Mumbai Alumni Association.

Citizen Direct is India Together's channel for publishing reports from citizens who have detailed information about specific civil society concerns and matters, by virtue of their participation, association, or independent observation. These reports are therefore as witnessed and understood by the authors themselves; India Together accepts no liability or responsibility for them.   More

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  • Posted by Rohit Somani on July 18, 2005 03:05 PM

    The government should kill the other arbitrary laws that are existing in Sales tax, IPC rather than repealing RTI. I appreciate the effors of Mr. Shailesh Gandhi.

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