HYDERABAD: In a development that has right to information (RTI) activists up in arms, the Andhra Pradesh government has refused to part with details of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) it signed with the Singapore government on preparing the master plan for the new capital of the residuary state.
Replying to a query by an RTI activist, the municipal administration and urban development (MA&UD) department refused to furnish the details of the agreement, stating that “such information falls under the exemptions provided as per section 8 (1) of the RTI Act. Hence, the information cannot be provided.”
As per the RTI Act, there are 10 provisions under Section 8 (1) to which the state can take recourse to for withholding information. Some of the provisions are: If the information is sensitive to the sovereignty and security of the country; information forbidden for publication by any court of law or tribunal or the disclosure of which may constitute contempt of court; information of commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property; the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, etc.
However, the authorities did not mention under what provision of section 8 (1) they are withholding the information. “Under no circumstance can the AP government claim exemption under Section 8 (1) in this instance as the master plan is for a public cause,” RTI activist TV Bhaskar Rao said.
Earlier, the AP government had claimed that the MoU is part of government to government initiative and that the master plan will be made public for debate and opinion. “If the Singapore government is preparing the master plan free of cost, what is the problem in the state government making public the MoU. Not disclosing the same will give rise to speculations that there is something hanky panky in it,” said Vadde Sobhanadreeswara Rao, former TDP minister who is actively fighting for the rights of farmers in the capital area.
When contacted, an RTI commissioner who did not want to be named told TOI that “the information seeker can go for higher appeal.”