Indian Activists Object to Exclusion on PPP Projects

29 July 2011

Indian right to information activists are expressing dissatisfaction with an internal  government legal opinion that would exempt Public Private Partnership Projects (PPPs) from the right to information law.

The Central Information Commission has decided to seek Prime Minister’s Manmohan Singh’s intervention,according to The Hindustani Times, which broke the story. “We will be writing to the Prime Minister that there should not be a blanket ban on making RTI applicable to PPP projects,” the paper’s Chetan Chauhan quoted an unnamed information commissioner as saying.  

The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information said it is “extremely disappointed” by the reported legal opinion that Public Private Partnership Projects (PPPs) do not fall within the ambit of the 2005 Right to Information Act. The legal opinion itself has not been officially disclosed yet.

Providing background, the NCPRI said, “Citizens, people’s movements and the Central Information Commission have for long demanded that a mechanism be established for ensuring transparency at all stages of design and implementation of PPP projects. PPPs and government departments have opposed this demand arguing that these projects are implemented by private entities and that government departments or agencies do not hold or control majority share in the equity base of the PPP.”

The NCPRI details its argument that PPPs “unequivocally fall within the definition of the terms `State’ and `public authority’ and have no option but to comply with their obligations of transparency under the RTI Act.”

The NCPRI called on the government to immediately require all PPPs to publicize all relevant information about it under the provisions of the RTI Act.

The Central Information Commission (CIC) wrote to the Planning Commission earlier this year giving three recommendations to make PPPs RTI compliant.  The Planning Commission referred the matter to the Department of Legal Affairs (under the Union Law Ministry), which wrote the opinion. (See previous report.)

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