Friday, August 2, 2019

RTI Amendment Bill 2019 - End of RTI

The Right to Information Act (RTI) was finally amended on 25 July, 2019 when the upper house gave its assent, when proposed amendments escaped scrutiny and focused discussion after 117 MP’s voted against referring them to a select committee and 75 voting for it.


The RTI was enacted in June 2005 and it came into force in October the same year after the signature of the then President A P J Abdul Kalam replacing the Freedom of Information Act, 2002. The RTI Act was hailed across the country as a major landmark in the country’s march towards strengthening of democracy as it empowered every citizen to seek information regarding the government and its officials barring a few exceptions considered necessary and sensitive to the national security.
Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen of India was empowered to request information from a public authority that is required to reply expeditiously or within 30 days. Success of the RTI can be judged by the fact that almost 5000 daily applications were filed, In the first 10 years of the enactment of the law, around 17,500, 000 applications were filed of which one fourth were requests to the Centre.
Success of the RTI can be judged by the fact that almost 5000 daily applications were filed, In the first 10 years of the enactment of the law, around 17,500, 000 applications were filed of which one fourth were requests to the Centre.


The Act had been working fairly well since its inception till the coming of the BJP led NDA government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when one witnessed a fall in the number of applications. A 6% fall between 2015-16 and 2016-17 was reported in the RTI applications filed with the 1950 public authorities of the Central government which was receiving maximum information applications followed by states of Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Notwithstanding the fall in the rate of application, the Act was used extensively by the BJP to expose the Congress-led UPA government for its various acts of commission and omission that included scams and scandals.
The amended Act has changed sections 13 and 16 of the RTI Act, 2005. Section 13 of the original Act sets the term of Central Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at five years (or until the age of 65, whichever is earlier). It has been replaced now with “for such term” as may be prescribed by the Central government.

Again, Section 13 says that salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the “Chief Information Commissioner shall be the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner”, and those of an Information Commissioner “shall be the same as of the Election Commissioner”. Through amendment now, the salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners “shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government”.


By controlling the tenure and acquiring the authority to fix salaries, allowances and other terms of service, the Government has radically altered the character of the Information Commissions.




Almost identical changes through amending Section 16 of the original Act have been brought to Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners of states. While the salaries, allowances and others terms of service now “shall be such as prescribed by the Central Government”, now even State Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commission would be chosen by the Centre. Earlier as per the original Act, State Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioner were picked up by a three-member panel consisting of the Chief Minister (CM), state’s leader of the opposition or leader of the largest opposition party in the state assembly and a state cabinet minister nominated by the CM.


At least seven former Information Commissioners of the Central Information Commission condemned the move of the NDA government to amend the RTI Act through the RTI Amendment Bill 2019.
Wajahat Habibullah, Deepak Sandhu (both former chief information commissioners), Shailesh Gandhi, Sridhar Acharyulu, MM Ansari, Yashovardhan Azad and Annapurna Dixit (former information commissioners) termed the amendment as a direct attack on the autonomy of information commissions and people's fundamental right to know and urged the government to withdraw the regressive amendments.

The RTI activists & other social worker tried to approach President of India  & they tried to submit memorandum signed by almost 2 lac people in order to protest the amendment in RTI act but police arrested them and not allowed to submit their memorandum against RTI amendment bill at gate no. 36 of President House.

In my opinion their is undeclared emergency in India as we can't  ask questions about the working of government as this government is trying to control all the constitutional as well as statutory bodies. We have seen biased working of Elections Commission and CBI in recent years now amending RTI act government is trying to control the information right of common People & original RTI act 2005 is on the verge of extinction by becoming poppet of government after amendment.

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