Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Right to Convenient Information Act

On 12th October 2012, The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, made a speech to the annual Convention of Information Commissioners. The speech had the usual platitudes expected from the Prime Minister of the largest creakily functioning democracy in the world. What made people get up from the somnolence brought about by these type of speeches was an ominous part which, interestingly, had words like frivolous and vexatious in it. Reproduced below:
There are some obvious areas of concerns about the way the Right to Information Act is being used presently, and I had flagged a few of them when I addressed this Convention last year. There are concerns about frivolous and vexatious use of the Act in demanding information the disclosure of which cannot possibly serve any public purpose. Sometimes information covering a long time-span or a large number of cases is sought in an omnibus manner with the objective of discovering an inconsistency or mistake which can be criticized. Such queries besides serving little productive social purpose are also a drain on the resources of the public authorities, diverting precious man-hours that could be put to better use. Such requests for information have in fact come in for adverse criticism by the Supreme Court as well as the Central Information Commission.
 There are so many things wrong with this paragraph that it needs to be analyzed in detail. The worrying part is that the things wrong with the paragraph are wrong in principle.