Indian RTI Conference Adopts 12-Point Shillong Declaration

14 March 2011

Indian right to know activists March 13 passed a 12-point resolution urging that the law’s jurisdiction be expanded to cover Public-Private Partnership (PPP) entities, political parties, trade unions, and nongovernmental organizations.

The “Shillong Declaration” was approved at the conclusion of a three day national RTI conference in Shillong, attended by about 1,000 persons.

The declarations also calls for ” transparency in all religious and faith-based institutions about the use of public money for private purposes.”

Added to the initial draft resolution was a recommendation that all public expenditures be subjected to a “public/social audit.”

According to a report in The Assam Tribune, the provision “was only included after the strong insistence of RTI activist, Aruna Roy. She was amply supported by some of the country’s prominent figures in the field of judiciary, media and bureaucracy.”

12 Resolutions Adopted

The resolutions are:

(1) To strongly demand from the Government both state and central of suo-moto disclosure under Section (4) of the RTI Act. [According to Wikipedia: suo moyu, meaning “on its own motion,” is a Latin legal term, approximately equivalent to the term sua sponte. “It is used, for example, where a government agency acts on its own cognizance, as in “the Commission took suo motu control over the matter.”]

(2) Demand for an anti-corruption body such as the Lok Pal at the Centre and the Lok Ayukta in the states which are autonomous and are vested with appropriate powers and staff so that information obtained through RTI can be taken further.

(3) It is a moral and legal responsibility both of the Central and State Government to ensure protection of RTI applicants and activists. If an RTI applicant or activist is attacked the issue should be brought into public view.

(4) Ensure a process by which all legislations approved by parliament and state legislatures in their draft forms should be made public and provisions created for public discussion and inclusions of peoples’ views.

(5) Process of selection and functioning of state and Central Information Commissioners requires serious overhaul. The selection should be participatory and transparent and keep the interest of people paramount and not that of the government. The norms of selection should be mutually agreed upon and there should be a mechanism to get people’s views on the possible candidate for the post of Information Commissioner/s.

(6) Demand that government of India should set up an RTI Council along the lines of the NREGA Council with representatives from all states in the Council.

(7) Public Private Partnerships (PPP), Private Sector, Political Parties, Trade Unions, Co-operative Societies, NGOs should fall under the RTI Act Procedures and rules should be fine-tuned to make it easier to get RTI from the above institutions.

(8) The NCPRI believes that exemptions under Section (24) to Intelligence and Security Agencies are irrational and contrary to national interests and they need to be removed not by amendment of the Act but by withdrawing the list of notified agencies.

(9) For those areas in the North East where there are no local governments (Panchayati Raj Institutions) and where there are District Councils and traditional institutions, rules, procedures and structures should be made so that RTI is effective up to the grass roots level.

(10) There must be transparency in all religious and faith-based institutions about the use of public money for private purposes.

(11) All government expenditures must be subject to public/social audit.

(12) The NCPRI stands by all resolutions passed by all working groups at their workshops.

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