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March 14, 2019 06:28 PM | Legal

Rafale case: RTI clearly states exemptions are restricted, says former chief information commissioner

The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that file notings have lost the sanctity they once enjoyed after the centre argued that privileged documents have been produced through theft.

Rebutting the centre's argument that under the Right to Information (RTI) act, there is a bar on disclosing information that harms sovereignty, security and integrity of the country, the apex court also observed that under the act, the government is bound to disclose information on corruption and human rights violation.

In an interview to CNBC-TV18, Wajahat Habibullah, former chief information commissioner; Anjali Bhardwaj, co-convener, National Campaign for People's Right to Information and Majeed Memon, senior advocate,  discussed the Rafale case hearing.

Habibullah said, “The RTI Act quite clearly states that the list of exemptions is included in Section 8 of the act. Exemptions are restricted, they are not extended through that clause, but they are restricted through that clause. Therefore, in principle what does the RTI Act do, it has changed the whole paradigm of governance from one in which information is held in trust by the government and therefore never disclosed which is what we were taught in our training period. Instead of that, now you have a paradigm whereby information which belongs in a democracy, to the public, must always be disclosed unless there are exceptions.”

Bhardwaj said, “It is a very welcome observation from the Supreme Court. After all, the Supreme Court is the one that has actually declared Right To Information to be a fundamental right flowing from the constitution of India.”
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