President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday spoke about the importance of maintaining a “fine balance” between the right to information and right to privacy. He said public records are open to public scrutiny, but private records of citizens are protected from “intrusive curiosity”.
Speaking at the 13th annual convention at the Central Information Commission in New Delhi, Kovind said the RTI Act was part of the larger initiative to strengthen democracy in India and lauded it for being a “pedestal for transparent governance”. The Central Information Commission is the authority that monitors the implementation of the RTI Act.
“I commend the CIC [Central Information Commission] for upholding the RTI’s basic charter that public records, with some exceptions for subjects such as national security, are open to public scrutiny – but private records of individual citizens are protected from intrusive third-party curiosity,” Kovind said.
The president also pitched for the modernisation of the declassification protocol. “There is also need to look at our declassification protocols for government and archival documents, and see how we can modernise these,” he said. “Open government and the pursuit of legitimate public oversight are a desirable and a dynamic process. We can never do enough; we can never aim too high.”
Kovind said there is no such thing as “too much information” and that an “information overload” is always preferable to its deficit. He, however, cautioned against the use of the Right to Information Act to settle personal scores. “Especially in an age when privacy has become a matter of such intense debate, it is crucial to maintain this balance [between privacy and information],” he said.
The Indian government, he said, has appointed 50,000 public information officers under the RTI Act to respond to the yearly estimate of 60 lakh requests for information. He said citizens have the right to know how they are being governed and how the taxpayer’s money is being spent.