The legislative committee of the National Council (NC) was scheduled to hold discussions on the Draft Right to Information (RTI) Bill at the 63rd plenary session of the National Council yesterday but it has been postponed owing to the absence of the proponent, Sangay Khandu who is currently on a constituency visit to Laya, Gasa.
NC member, Jagar Dorji said, “The legislative committee refrained from discussions on the bill in the absence of the proponent”.
The RTI Bill drafted by NC member, Sangay Khandu as a private member Bill is now on the verge of entering the preliminary phase as the Bill shall receive comments and recommendations from the Legislative committee.
The 62nd plenary meeting of NC last week saw NC MP Sangay Khandu’s declaration to move a motion to introduce the bill on the floor of the House which then will need one third support before it can be put to debate.
“Copies of the bill have been circulated to everyone from the Legislative committee of the National Council to read and review,” he said.
NC Chairperson, Thrizin Namgay Penjore said, We have decided that we get a presentation from the proponent himself.”
In a recent live interview with Bhutan Broadcasting Service, a night before the international press freedom day, Information and Communication Secretary Dasho Kinley said the need for an RTI Bill is enshrined in the constitution and therefore will come into existence and cannot be avoided by the government.
He also said right to information should exist alongside right to privacy. “Having an RTI Act doesn’t mean you can disrupt privacy of individuals while obtaining information such as medical records of a person and others.”
The World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) was observed on May 3 in the capital with Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BMCD) organizing an open forum on oneof this year’s WPFD themes: Difficulty in the access to quality Information undermines press freedom.
Speakers from within the media houses deliberated on the need of RTI Act besides discussions on other topics.
After the BCMD forum, talking to The Bhutanese, NC member Aum Tashi Wangmo who was one of the guest speakers at the forum said, “For me, it’s too premature to comment on the bill unless I am sure of where it is heading, however given the situation after I learnt from the forum about the difficulties in getting information by media representatives, I think we need the RTI Act”.
She added that inadequate information can lead to a problem and it needs to be addressed.
Another panelist at the forum, Bhutan Observer’s editor Needrup Zangpo highlighted the importance of the government to open up as information belongs to the public. He referred to the government task force’s report on the rupee crunch as a major example of public information withheld by the government.
Managing editor of Business Bhutan Kinley Tshering said, RTI Act is a democratic apparatus in itself. The Act will give legitimacy to the right bestowed by the Constitution on every citizen. We need this Act, or for that matter any democracy needs this Act, because no other laws empower citizenry more than the law on right to information.
“We expect good sense to prevail. And if the government decides to put off the act for some other time in the future, we have the right to know why”, he said.