Indian State Exempts Anti-Corruption Agency From RTIA

3 August 2012

The government of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh Cabinet voted on July 31 to exclude the anticorruption agency Lokayukta from the scope of the Right to Information Act, according to Indian activists and media reports.

“This is one of the many attacks being launched against the transparency regime by the very system which the RTI Act seeks to transform,” according toVenkatesh Nayak, coordinator of the Access to Information Programme for the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

The cabinet said an exemption is needed to maintain secrecy while investigating corruption charges against officials, according to a Times of India report. The newspaper said the government has taken other steps to undercut the agency’s effectiveness.

Nayak said the agency does not qualify for the Section 24(4) exemption, which applies only ‘security’ and ‘intelligence’ organizations. He said RTI Act exemptions already protect against the disclosure of investigatory materials. “There is no reason why other anti-corruption bodies should shy away from transparency,” Nayak said.

He also said that the UP Government’s decision is “a clear violation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption which India ratified last year.”Article 5(1) of the UNCA requires Indian Governments to develop and implement an anti-corruption policy that is informed by transparency amongst other values.

He also noted that the exemption under Section 24(4) is not absolute, saying that information about allegations of corruption cannot be denied by an exempt agency.

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