RTI in the neighbourhood
In 2007, Nepal adopted a law similar to that of the neighbour’s Right to Information Act, 2005 with the intention to make the functions of the state open and transparent in accordance with the democratic system and to allow every citizen access to information held in public bodies.
According to the RTI Act of Nepal, only those information which “seriously jeopardizes” sovereignty, integrity, national security, public peace, stability and international relations should not be disseminated. Anything that directly effects investigation, inquiry and prosecution of a crime can also be kept away from the public. Exemption is also granted to issues that affect economy, trade, monetary interest, intellectual property, banking, trade privacy, communal harmony and anything that interferes with individual privacy as well as security of body, life, health and property of a person can also be kept secret.
The Act is yet to be fully implemented and exercised. Just as the RTI Act is gaining the strength, the Maoist-led government recently directed all public offices not to disclose 140 kinds of information classified by a committee headed by the Chief Secretary. Recently, the government has included new items like issues under consideration in the cabinet, recommendations of the Constituent Assembly, names of ambassadors approved by the cabinet and proposals sent by the parliament to the President. Further, information regarding airports, radio and television stations, customs check posts, telecom, power houses, irrigation, canals, bridges, storage of petroleum products and design of dry ports have also been included in the list of things that would be kept secret.
The move has led to protests and two PILs have been filed in Supreme Court seeking a stay on the government’s decision as it is against provisions of the interim constitution and the RTI Act.