<i>Right to information ordinance okayed </i>
The cabinet yesterday approved in principle the Right to Information Ordinance 2008 to ensure free flow of information to the people.
The cabinet sent back the draft of the Right to Information (RTI) Ordinance, suggesting a few changes in its wording, rewriting a few clauses and merging some sections, said sources.
After making the changes, the information ministry, which initiated the move, will have to get the draft vetted by the law ministry before placing it before the cabinet for final approval, the sources added.
A few of the existing 38 sections in the draft may be merged together, said sources.
The eight-member ordinance drafting committee of the information ministry had proposed a five-member information commission, which the cabinet decided to have three members.
"Of the three, one will be a female member," chief adviser's Press Secretary Syed Fahim Munaim told reporters after a cabinet meeting at the chief adviser's office yesterday.
As part of its institutional reforms, the caretaker government took the initiative to formulate the law with an aim to "empower people as well as ensure transparency, accountability and establish good governance".
According to the draft, the government and other institutions using public funds will have to provide people with necessary information within 20 days of applying for it.
The approval came after a long discussion at the cabinet meeting with Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed in the chair. The meeting started at 3:30pm and continued until 6:15pm.
All advisers to the caretaker government, except for the foreign and law advisers, and special assistants to the chief adviser, the cabinet secretary and the chief adviser's press secretary were present at the meeting.
The government had formed the eight-member committee headed by Joint Secretary of the information ministry Kamal Uddin Ahmed to draft the law.
The committee analysed the right to information laws of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in addition to the drafts prepared by the Law Commission and Manusher Jonno Foundation, a local NGO.
After formulating the draft, the information ministry made it open for public to receive suggestions on it.
Responding to citizens' request, the information ministry extended the time for sending opinion on the preliminary RTI draft from March 23 up to April 3.
The drafting committee had proposed forming a three-member information commission, but following demands from different quarters, it suggested that the commission has five members.
The cabinet, however, last night decided that it would be a three-member body.
A committee of five members will recommend appointments to the commission, naming three persons against each post. The president will pick one from them.
The chief justice will appoint an Appellate Division judge to head the committee, according to the proposal placed before the cabinet.
Individuals aggrieved at not getting information or being supplied with incorrect information can first appeal with the heads of the organisations concerned. If still not satisfied, they can go to the proposed information commission based in the capital, the proposal said.
Anyone found guilty of refusing to provide information or giving wrong information can be fined Tk 25,000 and departmental action can be taken against them.
Following public demand, the drafting committee also omitted the clauses on exemption from disclosure for "public interest" and "state honour".
"Besides, the instances of exemption have been specified in the proposed draft to remove vagueness," said a source, without detailing further.