Tuesday, May 17, 2005

India Approves Stronger Right to Information Law

taken from: http://www.freedominfo.org

May 16, 2005 - India's Lok Sobha (Parliament) approved a new and stronger Right to Information Act on May 11, 2005, and the English-language text of the new law was posted today at www.freedominfo.org, the virtual network of international freedom of information advocates. One of the co-founders of India's National Campaign for the Peoples' Right to Know, Shekhar Singh, commented that the act "has turned out rather well and certainly better than we expected."

The new law replaces a weaker law enacted by the Lok Sobha in 2002 but never entered into force by the previous government, which was replaced in the elections of 2004 by the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress Party coalition. Mrs. Gandhi made the right to information a major component of her platform, and appointed a distinguished group of civil society advisers, including Aruna Roy of MKSS, as a National Advisory Council to hold the new government to its promises.

On 23 December 2004, Roy and other Council members wrote Mrs. Gandhi (who serves as the majority leader in the Parliament and the head of the Council, but not as a minister) to protest the government's draft, just introduced in Parliament, of a new right-to-information law, which retreated significantly from campaign pledges as well as the Council's own discussions with Mrs. Gandhi. The new law, as passed on May 11, addresses most of the problems identified by the Council's letter, and represents a significant step toward greater government openness in the world's largest democracy.

The first issue of "Open Government: a journal on freedom of information" contains a commentary on the draft bill

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