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Uncontrolled use of RTI must end: Parliamentary Panel
May 02, 2008 11:55 IST
A Parliamentary panel, disfavouring uncontrolled access under RTI to information relating to proceedings of the House, has said that many legislatures across the world have no such provision.
The House of Lords, UK, has no recent record of a court or investigating agency requesting for a parliamentary document and such documents are mostly protected by Parliamentary privilege from use in court.
In the Sri Lankan Parliament, if any document is requested, it can be obtained on written approval of the Speaker.
According to the Sri Lankan Constitution, 'no member or officer of Parliament shall give evidence elsewhere in respect of the contents of such evidence or of the contents of any documents laid before Parliament'.
In the National Assembly of South Africa, any request from a court or an investigating agency requires the express permission of the presiding officer for the execution or service of any summon or subpoena.
In Canada [Images], the law of Parliamentary privileges is operational in the Senate. It rules that no proceeding in Parliament shall be questioned in any court or placed outside Parliament.
In its report to the Speaker on Thursday, the Committee had disfavoured uncontrolled access under RTI to information related to proceedings in the House and advocated amendments in the RTI Act.
It said the amendment of the RTI Act was necessary to make an applicant declare why any particular information was being sought.
Noting that the Parliamentary proceedings involve 'sensitivity and confidentiality of the information', it said.
The Privileges Committee said that 'notwithstanding the overriding effect' with regard to applicability of the Right to Information Act, 2005 vis-a-vis other laws, the right to information accruing to a citizen under the RTI 'cannot abrogate privileges conferred under Constitutional provisions'.
It said that irrespective of the fact as to what the citizens ask for under the RTI Act vis-a-vis matters under the jurisdiction of Parliament, it should be made mandatory for them to state the reasons for which the information or documents are being sought so that the Speaker of the House concerned can take a decision in the matter.
"If the Speaker, is of the view that the document sought for has the potential to call in question proceedings of the House, its committees, etc, he may refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges of the House for examination and report," the panel said.