Friday 7 October 2011

An open letter to Law Minister Salman Khurshid

Dear Law Minister,

As a Legal Correspondent for many years, I have seen you many a times in the highest court of the country. I also know that you are one of the most respected lawyers in India. Recently I read about your statement that Right to information law is transgressing into the government functioning. You also say that the RTI law has been misused and there is a need for a wider debate on this law. Your statement raises many questions in my mind.

1. When you say that RTI law has been affecting the efficiency of the government, should I construe that your government can’t work in a free and transparent manner? If this is so, why should we have a government which doesn't give us a right to see if they are carrying on the mandate of the people in a fair manner? Why should we have a government which is so inefficient that it fails to perform well when it comes to fairness and transparency? Are we, the citizens of this country, there just to push an EVM button every five years and forget about it?

2. When you talk of misuse of RTI law, have you ever thought how Section 498A of Indian Penal Code is grossly misused? As a lawyer yourself, you would have seen many judgments of the Supreme Court as well as Delhi High Court where the courts repeatedly reminded government about the wide spread misuse of dowry law. Did you ever think of amending section 498A or for that matter we are yet to see the amendment which makes section 498A bailable. Another law which are grossly misused is Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Have you ever seen the conviction rate in SC/ST act? It is terribly low and many a times the courts have given findings that this law is misused a lot.

3. You talk of misuse, but recently the Supreme Court asked the government to reconsider amending law on land acquisition and law relating to adverse possession. In fact the court went on to say that Land Acquisition laws have become an instrument of oppression in the hands of state. We don’t see any initiative on the part of the government to amend that law.I want to ask you if your government has done anything to amend these laws?

4. If RTI law is giving you sleepless nights, I wonder what will happen when we, the people of this country, will ask for Right to Recall and Right to Reject? We, the people of this country are undergoing a tremendous change. We don't  want to remain the mute spectators of misuse of the mandate which has been given to the government. In fact RTI is the first step towards achieving democracy in real sense.

I understand your concerns on the misuse of RTI law, the recent spat between two top ministers of the government was exposed in public just because a RTI application revealed a tell all story.I also hope that you would have also read the Right to Information Act. The act itself provides for enough exception under Section 8 and if the government uses its discretion well, the misuse of this law shall not be a problem for the government.

Section 8 (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen,—
(a) information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;
information which has been expressly forbidden to be published by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court;
(c) information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature;
(d) information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
(e) information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
(f) information received in confidence from foreign Government;
(g) information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;
(h) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;
(i) cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers:

Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over:

Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed;

(j) information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority, as the case may be, is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information:

Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

So therefor, I would request you to kindly abandon the idea of amending this Right to Information law. I sincerely hope that this government will have some sanity and rather than amending Right to Information Act, the government will soon enact some badly needed laws like Janlokpal and electoral reform law which are the need of the hour.

Sincerely yours,

Sumit Nagpal


  1. What is ironical is that earlier UPA was self praising for giving us RTI, now it wants to CURB RTI in the garb of misuse. I fail to understand HOW some information can be withheld if it is not a State secret. Why can't we know how much money is spent on a particular stretch of road which goes bad in every 4 months since the last 20 years?

    But then, UPA is the boss of it's OWN imagination. Anna movement or not, UPA is becoming a liability and it is a public knowledge.


  2. Hi Sumit, to tell you the truth i just read 3 para's of your blog , before i was compelled to comment.. just because someone has said " let's discuss n debate" does not mean they are against it.. as i understand this govt. had brought about the RTI , n yes because some activists had fought hard for it n rightly so.. so why assume.. i expected better arguments from someone who is well versed with the law.. believe read however little i did , gave me an impression of someone who likes to point out just one side of the story.. n i would give u a benefit of the doubt.. as i have not read the whole blog.. but believe me im not at all keen too.. ( even though i put in some time to write this comment) .. u can throw out my observation.. but if it gives u something to ponder about.. then that's all i want..

  3. A very well written article. Guess Mr.Kurshid himself would be dumbfounded if asked to answer the points that you had raised. By the way just to confirm, wasn't RTI the idea of Dr.Swamy when he was an MP during Indira Gandhi regime?

  4. Oh so u delete comments that do not agree with u .. great for u..

  5. Dear Mr. Indian..

    I don't delete comments even if you don't agree with me. And as far as your point is concerned pls consider the following

    1 Its not a story but an opinion and when you write your opinion, you dont have to give both sides of the coin.

    2 Its a common knowledge that because of this RTI, government has faced some very embarrassing situations so debate and discuss means govt wants to dilute this law

    3 And finally, so many laws are misused, why law minister is never bothered to check those laws?


    Sumit Nagpal