RTI Amendment 2019: An act of dictating democracy or necessary rectification?
The Lok Sabha has passed the RTI (Right to Information ) Bill 2019 which will be preceded by RTI Act, 2005 if cleared. The bill is due to be reviewed and cleared by Rajya Sabha on 24th July. The RTI Act, 2005 has been considered as one of the landmark decisions in the Indian democracy and was hailed for handing over of righteous powers to the citizens of India.
What is Right to Information Act, 2005?
The RTI Act was passed on 15th June 2005 and came into force on 12th October 2005. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen of India may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and to proactively certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.
In a layman’s language, RTI gives the power to every Indian citizen to seek information from the Public authorities. We have the right to enquire about anything in context with the government bodies barring the following:-
- Information that affects the security and economic interests of the government with another country
- Information that is banned from being published by any court or tribunal
- Information that would result in a breach of privilege of the Legislature
- Information that would harm commercial interests
- Information that arises because of a relationship based on trust
- Information from a foreign government which was given as a secret
- Information that exposes whistleblowers or endangers lives
- Information that would cause difficulty in police investigation or arrests in criminal cases
- Records of the Cabinet Ministers (reasons and materials can be made public after the decision is made)
- Personal information (however, such information has to be revealed to the Parliament or State Legislature if asked for)
RTI Act was aimed to increase transparency, keep corruption in check and make the public organisations liable of negligence and concealment of the necessary information. This proved to be a major blow to many who now fell under the radar of the public eye. Proof of the same is numerous incidents of attacks, murders, and threats on those who were seeking information through RTI.
Barriers of absolute transparency in RTI,2005
Proving to be a subversion of this act was an invocation of Intellectual Property Rights by the government authorities on certain occasions like :
- RBI denied releasing information on Demonetization citing Intellectual Property Laws.
- Denial by UP Irrigation Department to release details to environmental scientists about environmental impact, wastage of tax money, etc in the ‘Gomti Riverfront Development Project’
What changes if RTI Act 2019 is implemented?
According to sources, the amendments will change the following :
- The government will have the power to change the term of Information Commissioners, determine and deduct their salaries.
- The status of Information Commissioners would change who were on a par with Election Commissioners as per the original act.
This means that the prime authorities of this act are now susceptible to insecurities of losing the job or being influenced by how the government functions which may affect the transparency of RTI.
Views of the opposition and activists :-
From UPA, Kejriwal to other activists including Anna Hazarey are critising the amendment and are considering it as a threat to democracy.
Current Government’s opinion on the matter :-
As per the sources, Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), who introduced the bill in the Lok Sabha, said the Union government was only rectifying the anomaly in the law that had been passed by the UPA government in 2005.