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    BANGLADESH: Info on public interest ensured in RTI


    As reported by Shamim Ashraf in Daily Star on 4 March 2008 asiamedia.ucla.edu :
    AsiaMedia :: BANGLADESH: Info on public interest ensured in RTI

    BANGLADESH: Info on public interest ensured in RTI

    All organisations registered under the law of the land will be bound to provide citizens with information on matters of public interest once the right to information act, now in its draft form, comes into force.

    The individuals aggrieved for not getting information or for being supplied with incorrect information can first appeal with heads of the organisations and, if not satisfied, can go to the proposed information commission that will be based in the capital.

    Draft of the act, to be titled Right to Information Ordinance, 2008, has already been sent to the chief adviser for his opinion, said sources.
    The government will soon hold a roundtable discussion to have stakeholders' opinions and incorporate those in the final draft before sending it for the cabinet's approval.

    Following Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed's commitment to enacting the law, an eight-member committee headed by the Information ministry's Joint Secretary (development) Kamal Uddin Ahmed was commissioned to draft the law.

    Besides the right to information laws of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the committee analysed the drafts made by the Law Commission and Manusher Jonno Foundation, an NGO working to promote human rights and good governance.

    The committee comprising experts from different fields has included in the draft a number of provisions similar to those in the Indian act since socio-economic circumstances of these two countries match closely.
    Under the proposed act, every organisation will have an officer designated to provide information sought by the people.

    "Not only the government offices, those including NGOs, trusts and corporate houses like Asia Energy who are registered under any law of the country will have to provide people the information they need," a member of the committee told The Daily Star in return for anonymity.

    Asked if the political parties too would be brought within the ambit of the law, he said, "We cannot do that at this moment since they are not registered under any law."

    But once the political organisations are registered they will have to do the same, he added.

    If an information officer refuses to provide information, or if they dillydally or supply incorrect information, the aggrieved person can lodge a complaint with head of the organisation concerned.

    Veering from the law commission's proposal for setting up district tribunals to deal with the complaints by those who would be deprived of remedies at the organisation level, the committee has proposed instituting an information commission headquartered in Dhaka to settle such cases.

    "We think having tribunals in all the districts won't be feasible since it will need a good number of judges to be appointed there. Besides, there will already be an official at each organisation to look up the matters," said another member of the ordinance drafting committee.

    Anyone found guilty of refusing to provide information or of giving misinformation can be awarded imprisonment up to three months and fined Tk 25,000.

    The information commission, which will be one of its kind, will have three members including its chief to be an expert in law, administration and information.

    One of the members will be drawn from the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court while one will be a woman.

    A committee of four to five members will make recommendations for appointment to the commission. It will name three persons against each post and the president will pick one from them.

    The chief justice will appoint an Appellate Division judge to head the committee that will include the cabinet secretary and chairmen of the Public Service Commission and University Grants Commission, said sources.

    Once the right to information act is passed, the other laws and rules that obstruct disclosure of information to people will not be a bar anymore.
    Section 1 of Official Secrets Act 1923, section 123 of Evidence Act 1892, Rules 28 (1) of Rules of Business 1996, and section 19 of Government Servants (Conduct) Rules 1979.

    However, there will be waiver to disclosure of some types of information including those which if revealed may pose threat to independence and sovereignty of the country, and seek to deteriorate law and order, increase crime, harm public safety and hamper trial of cases already underway.

    Besides, disclosure of personal information that may harm a person's secrecy will also be withheld unless it is needed for investigation into any corruption charges against the person, said a member of the drafting committee.

    Talking to The Daily Star, many demanded that the draft be put on website or the government publish it so that people can give their feedback.

    Besides, they observed that the proposed information commission must be given free rein if it is to play an effective role in ensuring people's right to information.


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    Re: BANGLADESH: Info on public interest ensured in RTI


    As reported by Reter Zonaki in upiasiaonline.com on 20 March 2008:
    Bangladeshis deserve right to information - upiasiaonline.com

    Bangladeshis deserve right to information

    HONG KONG, China, Right to Information is a right that is long overdue to the Bangladeshis. The nation, especially the media, a cluster of NGOs, and the civil society have together struggled to bring the debate on the political stage since the last couple of years. However, recently, they framed a draft law and submitted the same to the government for enactment.

    The Ministry of Information in Bangladesh, in response and following continuous pressure from the local and international community, revised the previous version of the draft law, which has since created many debates inside as well as outside the country in recent weeks.

    The first draft of the Right to Information (RTI) Bill was published on the website of Manusher Jonno Foundation -- a Dhaka based NGO, which led the drafting process that also involved civil society experts. By publishing the draft law online they set an example for the government, and for the first time in the history of Bangladesh, the government published the official draft of the RTI ordinance, albeit with spelling and grammatical errors on the website of the concerned ministry, which will remain on the site until Mar. 23, for public opinion.

    This is a positive message for professionals connected with human rights issues. Activities by private citizens that lead to good governance, can, in the future set good examples and induce the government to imitate and implement the same for the welfare of its citizens.

    However, in the ongoing debates in the country on the RTI Bill, media and legal experts mostly from Dhaka pointed out various contradictions and loopholes, which they claimed is another means to deny the people, the right to information. For example, the draft ordinance mentions that the law will come in effect within 120 days from the date of gazette notification. However, it fails to mention when the government will do the gazette notification.

    In the 'Primacy of Ordinance,' section 3 says, "After entry into force, the provisions of this Ordinance shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act 1923, and any other law for the time being in force." This according to experts means that unless the Official Secrets Act of 1923, and or, section 5(1) of the Act is void, the right to information will be denied by the authorities in the excuse of 'public interest'.

    In fact, section 8 of the proposed ordinance has nine points for rejecting the petitions of information-seekers. That includes denying information on the security of the State, sovereignty, foreign policy, business interest of certain institutions, and economic management policy of the government, that may influence and lead to criminal activities causing harm to public security.

    The debaters urged the government to come out of its 'culture of secrecy' and establish a new culture of accountability and transparency.

    Professionals recommended changing some of the sections of the draft ordinance like sections 6 -- which entails information seekers to wait for 20 days for information. This delay can reduce the importance of the required information or even help the authorities to manipulate certain events related to the sought information. Section 7 --which should be describing the procedure for providing fast information, instead, rants on the scope of public officials who provide the information. Section 8 lists exemptions to revealing information by making the excuse of withholding the information for the sake of public interest.

    The proposed Information Commission, according to section 12 of the proposed ordinance, seems overwhelmed with pro-government officials although a judge of the Appellate Division nominated by the chief justice of Bangladesh will head it. Ultimately, it is ridiculous to put the chairperson of the Public Service Commission, secretary of the Cabinet Division and chairperson of the University Grant Commission, all of whom are appointed by the government without any rules, in the Commission.

    It cannot be denied that the public servants have a tendency, by default, of ignoring the needs and requests of the citizens. In the given circumstances, if the Information Commission consists of pro-government people, then the right to information can be assumed to be yet another joke. The authorities seem to have deliberately ignored placing representatives of the media in the Information Commission to conceal information as well make fake interpretation of the law when it comes in effect.

    Moreover, there is no option or place in the Commission for human rights defenders although it is the most serious problem of the country. The authorities have always denied human rights defenders' right to information regardless of the many serious cases of gross human rights abuses.
    The culture of concealing, hiding, and shelving information is one of the key reasons of the ongoing rampant corruption and abuse of power in public institutions in Bangladesh.

    The country must come out of that nightmare. The Right to Information Bill should not come in effect with provisions for denying the people's right to access public information, as has been the case and culture in the country for centuries. Bangladeshis do not need any law of 'right to miss information'.
    --
    (Rater Zonaki is the pseudonym of a human rights defender based in Hong Kong working at the Asian Human Rights Commission. He is a Bangladeshi national with a degree in literature from a university in Dhaka. He began his career as a journalist in 1990 and engaged in human rights activism at the grassroots level in his country for more than a decade. He also worked as an editor for publications on human rights and socio-cultural issues and contributed to other similar publications.)
    Twitter: @cjkarira

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    Re: BANGLADESH: Info on public interest ensured in RTI


    For interested members, I am attaching herewith a English Translation of the draft of Bangladesh RTI Ordinance.

    Although it draws its basics and framework from the Indian RTI Act 2005, it is MUCH more exhaustive than the act in India. They have gone not one step but several strides ahead !

    If this comes into force in Bangladesh in this present form and is effectively implemented, kudos to Bangladesh !
    Twitter: @cjkarira

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    Re: BANGLADESH: Info on public interest ensured in RTI



    Attached is the draft RTI from Bangladesh.

    Also attached is a list of main differences between Indian RTI and Bangladesh RTI - for those members who are interested.
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Twitter: @cjkarira

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    Re: BANGLADESH: Info on public interest ensured in RTI


    Karira sir,

    can you explain this exemptions of Bangladesh RTI clause:


    Exemptions under Sec 8


    in India: Wide and also subject to interpretation.




    In Bangladesh: Specifically mentions non disclosure of income like Income Tax, Customs Duty, Tariff, Exchange Rate, Interest Rate



    Specifically mentions non disclosure of information which is already available for sale



    Specifically mentions non disclosure of information which is not in “public interest”






    Because in last in Bangladesh exemption clause it is mentioned that: non disclosure of information which is not in Public Interest.

    This clause is enough for PA of Bangladesh, not to provide information.

    can you put some light on this point and explain sir,


    rakatkam.
    Last edited by wagh7; 20-03-08 at 06:40 PM.

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    Re: BANGLADESH: Info on public interest ensured in RTI


    Actually there is another section 10 which says:

    Disclosure in public interests: Notwithstanding anything contrary
    in any other law or in any of the provisions in this Ordinance, the
    government/authority may disclose information in public interest.

    So, it is a bit confusing.

    Anyhow, this is only a draft and as press reports suggest (from English Media in Bangladesh) it is still being widely debated by Society at large.
    Twitter: @cjkarira

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    Re: BANGLADESH: Info on public interest ensured in RTI


    Thank you Karira sir,

    This wording

    Specifically mentions non disclosure of information which is not in “public interest”

    is very much dangarious.

    rakatkam.

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    Re: BANGLADESH: Info on public interest ensured in RTI


    As reported by Anisur Rehman in ptinews.com on 21 September 2008:
    Bangladesh cabinet approves Right to Information Ordinance

    Bangladesh cabinet approves Right to Information Ordinance

    Dhaka, Sep 21 (PTI) Bangladesh Cabinet has approved the Right to Information (RTI) Ordinance, taking a cue from similar laws in countries like India, to ensure transparency in government offices and public funded organisations, officials said here today.

    The Advisory Council at a meeting held yesterday chaired by Chief advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed gave the final approval to the proposed law, to be enacted through a presidential promulgation soon.

    "We have tried to ensure maximum disclosure of information under the ordinance...If there is any lapse in it, there is always scope to address that," the Information Secretary Jamil Osman told reporters.

    Officials said they reviewed similar laws in different countries including the RTI India while drafting the law.

    Under the ordinance people can get information in 20 days and in emergency cases within 24 hours, while officials concerned might face fine up to Taka 5000 for delay in providing the information sought.

    Incase of issues concerning a person's life and death, arrest and release from jail, the officials will have to provide primary information within 24 hours, the ordinance suggested.

    The ordinance would not however cover National Security Intelligence (NSI), Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, Military Intelligence, elite Special Security Force, CID police and Central Intelligence cell of the National Board of Revenue. But these provisions would not apply if that information concerns corruption and human rights violation, it said. PTI

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