Don't keep documents secret for ever: Somnath to Govt

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New Delhi, Nov 4 (UNI) Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today called for declassifying official documents after a certain time in the interest of people.

While admitting that the country's sovereignty and integrity require observation of confidentiality, he, however, said ''no documents should remain secret for ever and they need to be declassified after a certain timeframe, so that information could be released to people without affecting national interest.'' Mr Chatterjee was delivering the valedictory address at the two-day third Annual Convention of the Central Information Commission which was inaugurated here yesterday by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Speaker called for ''replacing the culture of secrecy and confidentiality with the culture of openness and mutual faith and making people aware of about the provisions of the Right to Information Act.

He said good governance and the right to information were complementary to each other as they in their turn stabilise and broaden the working of the democratic system.

''For democracy to be meaningful, it has to be participative and inclusive in every sense of the term, and it can succeed only when due acknowledgement is given to people's right to seek information effectively from public authorities,'' he said.

Lack of transparency in government dealings and activities generally breeds and encourages insensitiveness and inefficiency, he added.

Citing various studies, he said the experience of the last three years revealed that the implementation of the RTI Act across the board should be streamlined.

While taking note of complaints that citizens' RTI applications were sometimes rejected on vague and undisclosed grounds, the Speaker also cautioned against vested interests which seek information without any bonafide motive.

He called for adequate disincentive, including imposition of some punishment on frivolous proceedings.

The Speaker also expressed concern over the mounting number of RTI applications and the inability of the Central and state information commissions to deal with them.

''The pendency of nearly 7000 cases with the Central Information Commission, as in June 2008, speaks out not only volumes about people's desire for information but also of institutional inadequacy in dealing with them,'' said Mr Chaterjee while calling for the reasons to investigate, and the commissions strengthened to deal with the problem.

The Speaker said he was glad that the Lok Sabha was receiving lots of RTI applications on the working of the House and its members, as it proved their interest in parliamentary activities.

Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah briefed the Speaker and the delegates about the proceedings of the Convention and the activities and measures it planned to make the Commission more effective in providing information to people.


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