On 16th March, 2012 I submitted the draft bill on Right to Information to the Honorable Chairperson of the National Council with the objective of fulfilling a constitutional provision articulated under article 7 which states right to information as a fundamental right of every Bhutanese citizen. While the constitution provides for such a right, a legislation to ensure such a right prevails, as with many other laws that flow from constitutional provisions, is only a natural progression of processes.
Secondly, in adherence to our developmental philosophy of Gross National Happiness where good governance cross cuts the three other pillars, it will contribute greatly in the enhancement of transparency and accountability. In the end, it will contribute in creating a democratic culture of seeking accountability on the part of both the governing and the governed, to be informed and take part in decision making process to take the country forward.
Thirdly, through this legislation I hope it brings change to the way we document and manage information. These information tell us about our society and how we function; its a piece of history that we owe to our future generation to understand us in the past.
I am sharing the draft RTI Bill on my website sangaykhandu.com so that as many Bhutanese can be engaged in the law-making process by soliciting feedback, comments and contributions before putting the final form of the draft on the floor of the House. I believe this will greatly benefit in giving shape to a draft that befits debate in Parliament and reflects societal impressions.
For others I have for you a gist of the proposed draft.
Types of information that can accessed through the proposed legislation:
“Information” means information in the possession, custody or control of an office, including information to which an office has access in connection with its functions; and which includes but not limited to information in documentary or other recorded form, whether stored, maintained or utilized as writing, drawing, electronic media, photographic image, film image, video image, sound transcription, physical object, or otherwise, including administrative decision records, documents, memoranda, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, and models;
Who does it apply to:
The Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary, a ministry, a department, a commission, a council, an executive agency, a nationalized industry, a public corporation or other entity established by law, including a corporate body or agency owned, controlled or substantially financed by the Royal Government, a non-government organization financed, directly or indirectly, by the Royal Government and corporations with public money.
Information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of Bhutan, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence;
Information, the disclosure of which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament;
Information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
Information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
Information received in confidence from foreign Government;
Information, the disclosure of which would endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes;
Information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;cabinet papers including records of deliberations of the Council of Ministers, Secretaries and other officers: Provided that the decisions of Council of Ministers, the reasons thereof, and the material on the basis of which the decisions were taken shall be made public after the decision has been taken, and the matter is complete, or over: Provided further that those matters which come under the exemptions specified in this section shall not be disclosed;
Disclosure of the information is prohibited by order of a Court;
The information is of a personal nature, with no relationship to any public activity or interest, or is of a personal nature and its disclosure would cause an unwarranted invasion of privacy; Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament shall not be denied to any person.
Disclosure of the information would infringe a patent, copyright, trademark or other protected intellectual property right; or
The information is in the possession, custody or control of an office on the condition, whether by explicit agreement or because of the intrinsic nature of the information, that the information will not be disclosed without the consent of a person who is not a party to the request for information. However, information being older than 20 years and/or information related to corruption can be obtained.
Bhutan Information, Communication and Media Authority
Initial time frame for providing information:
High Court as per Civil and Criminal Procedure Code
The writer is the National Council MP from Gasa who has proposed the RTI Bill in the National Council.