Monday, January 12, 2015

RTI Act does not draw a distinction between demand for information in public interest and private interest.

Frequently under Right to Information Act 2005, Public Authorities have been exempting information in narrower interpretation of the term Public Interest within the RTI Act 2005. Itself the definition of Public Interest is vague and RTI Act 2005 amplifies by stating “Larger Public Interest”. ReferSection 8 e and 8 j of RTI Act. According to one of thedictionary Public Interest is defined as :
“Welfare of the general public (in contrast to the selfish interest of a person, group, or firm) in which the whole society has a stake and which warrants recognition, promotion, and protection by the government and its agencies.”
Despite the vagueness of the term, public interest is claimed generally by governments in matters of state secrecy and confidentiality. Thus it is approximated by comparing expected gains and potential costs or losses associated with a decision, policy,program, or project and is fairly left for the discretion of Public Authority to interpret
“..is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information.” RTI Act Section 8 j
Does it mean that Public Interest is the sum of individual interests? Is the public interest, then, that what is sought by the majority? Should the perspective used in defining the public interest be purely numerical? Can the term “public interest” include the protection of certain “higher” objective values? Can those values then be protected even against the will of the majority? If so, who should define and protect the public interest in a democratic form of government? In a democracy, policy decisions are formed based on the principle of majority, i.e. by voting procedure. A majority decision (e.g. a law or constitutional law) is a sum of individual interests, or the result of compromises reconciling individual interests; the main mediators of these interests are political parties. Is a majority interest also a public interest? 
However, the fact of the matter is that..
In one of the appeal hearing to Central Information Commission (CIC),
the respondent’s counsel has tenaciously argued that the appellant’s request for information is not in public interest and that he is seeking this information for extraneous considerations.
The question was whether information is disclosable under the RTI Act only in public interest and not otherwise.  The CIC has decided as follows:
“The Act provides for disclosure of information to the citizens of India subject to the provisions of section 8, 9, 10 & 11 of the RTI Act. In other words, appellant is not required to establish any larger public interest in his search for all classes of information. He is required to establish public interest only in particular clauses of section 8(1) of the RTI Act. In view of the above, we hold that appellant need not establish public interest while seeking information for all classes of information.”
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