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NRIs demand access to information back home under RTI


karira

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As reported on thaindian.com on 04 November 2008:

NRIs demand access to information back home under RTI

NRIs demand access to information back home under RTI

 

New Delhi, Nov 4 (IANS) Non resident Indians in the US have demanded that they be allowed access to information related to public authorities back home under the Right to Information Act (RTI).

 

NRIs have appealed to the Central Information Commission (CIC) to direct Indian missions abroad to provide information related to public authorities back home under the act. The request from NRIs comes at a time when the country is taking stock of the problems in implementing the RTI Act in the last three years.

 

“The biggest problem we are facing is that the Indian embassy in the US accepts applications related to the embassy but returns RTI applications related to public authorities in India,” said Arun Gopalan, an RTI activist in the US and member of Association of India’s Development, at the CIC’s annual convention here.

 

“I have filed several RTI applications to public authorities in India through the Indian embassy in Washington in the last one year and am still awaiting a reply,” added Gopalan, a software programmer in Maryland.

 

The RTI Act, 2005, does not provide NRIs access to any information related to public authorities in India and they can only seek information related to Indian embassies in their respective countries. The CIC had issued an order in 2007 bringing the Indian embassies abroad under the purview of the RTI Act.

 

Vishal Kudchadkar, a software engineer from Los Angeles, who had filed an RTI application requesting information regarding the decision of the embassy not to forward RTI applications, said: “I hope the CIC will instruct the Indian embassy to forward RTI applications to other public authorities.”

 

According to NRIs, they are unable to participate in the transparency and accountability movement that promises to improve governance in India.

 

“The issue is debatable, as under the RTI Act embassies abroad are only authorised to provide information related to them,” a CIC official said.

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The Embassy of India, Washington DC infact has a very poor record of implementing the RTI Act. As per the Embassy website http://www.indianembassy.org/newsite/RTI.asp:

 

1. There is no Sec 4 suo-motu disclosure

2. The information is provided only to "Indian Citizens" and it requires the applicant to provide proof of citizenship.

3. There is a extensive note about Sec 6 (3) to pre-empt anyone from filing RTI applications pertaining to any other Public Authority.

 

I have filed 2 Complaints under Sec 18(1)(f) to the CIC against the Embassy of India, Washington DC and the High Commission of India, London for blatantly violating the RTI Act. The copies have been uploaded in the "Directory" section of the forum.

 

RTI Directory

 

Let us see what does the CIC try to do.

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