“Exclude Us From RTI,” Appeal Armed Forces

New Delhi: The armed forces have made a fresh appeal of excluding from the Right To Information or RTI act, citing that they have not only found many instances where the transparency law harming the nation’s security but compromising the chain of command as well. 

The appeal is in the form of proposal filed before the government’s Committee of Secretaries, including top officials of prominent ministries like Home, Defence, Revenue, Information Technology, as well as the Cabinet Secretary.

Last year similar proposal was sent to the government from Department of Military Affairs – a part of the Defence Ministry. This initiative was renewed by the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat. He had cited the reasons like security of the nation, the need to defend it from external aggression and disturbance of peace and tranquility within the country. 

In the proposal submitted earlier this year by the armed forces – the army, navy, air force and coast guard – are demanding to be included in the exempted list of agencies like security and intelligence organizations.

The armed force says that information collected via RTI Act might lead to sharing of important insights of adversaries, jeopardizing national security. They have also complained about “a disturbing trend” of armed force personnel seeking information for individual matters and other issues which have no public interest – and find a new channel to air their grievances apart from the prescribed system.

According to them, 57,000 RTI applications were received between 2017 and 2020, out of which only 986 were rejected. The RTI applications sought information on operational equipment, border encounters, movement of troops and operational details of internal security.

Most of the queries and information have been sought only after any event of national ramifications like surgical strikes, elections, defence acquisitions and creation of new policies took place they said. 

Within the government, the opinion has been divided on the decision of exempting the armed forces. 

The Personnel Ministry said, “General exemption is not possible.” The Law Ministry has said, “Exemption would lead to the dilution of the vital transparency law.”

Currently the proposal is being considered by the Committee of Secretaries for being placed with recommendations before Prime Minister Narendra Modi who will take a final call.

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