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Draft of Digital Personal Data Protection Proposes Suggestion to Amend RTI Act

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Data Protection Law Insider

Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: 21 November 2022 at 19:56 IST

A proposal to change the Right to Information Act of 2005 is included in the draft of the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill that was made available for public comment by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on November 18.

A change to Section 8(j) of the RTI Act is suggested in clause 30(2) of the draft, which would completely exempt personal information from disclosure. According to Section 8(j) of the RTI Act, personal information is exempt from the Act if it is not related to any public activity or interest or if disclosing it would unreasonably invade the privacy of the individual.

However, if the authority determines that “the broader public interest justifies the revelation of such information,” the public information officer may order the disclosure of such personal information.

Additionally, a proviso to Section 8(j) states that an RTI applicant cannot be denied access to personal information that cannot be withheld from the State Legislature or the Parliament.

The proposed Digital Personal Data Protection Bill would eliminate all prohibitions on the sharing of personal information as well as the Public Information Officers’ authority to approve such disclosures on the grounds of greater public interest. Additionally, it is recommended to remove the proviso from Section 8(j).

The draft’s Clause 30 reads as follows:

The following changes must be made to clause (j) of sub-section (1) of Section 8 of the Right to Information Act, 2005:

(a) It is necessary to omit the phrase “the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the individual’s privacy, unless the Central Public Information Officer, 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;”

(b) The proviso shall be omitted.

The RTI Act’s Section 8(j) would read “information which relates to personal information” if the proposed changes are approved by the Parliament. In other words, exposure of personal information will be completely prohibited.

Shailesh Gandhi, a well-known RTI advocate and former Central Information Commissioner, has highlighted his concerns about this idea, which he believes will “seriously weaken the RTI Act.”

“As a result, RTI will have the right to withhold information. Most information is personal and can therefore be disputed. Numerous PIOs, Commissions, and Courts continue to reject personal information. What was once de facto is now becoming de jure. This is the biggest move to undermine RTI’s ability to prevent corruption and wrongdoing. Residents must express their disapproval and protest,” he urged.

Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology, posted the bill’s draught on Twitter for public comment.