Do we need the RTI amendment bill 2019 at all?

What is RTI?

Right to Information act 2005, which replaced the Freedom of Information Act 2002, enables the citizens to seek any information about the state and central government. The public authority has to reply to citizen query within 30 days.

Every day, over 4800 RTI applications are filed. In the first ten years of the commencement of the act over 17,500,000 applications had been filed.

In India, the organisation called Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan was instrumental in the passage of RTI Act. Aruna Roy is the mastermind behind the RTI Act 2005. RTI is a legal right for every citizen of India. The authorities under RTI Act 2005 are called quasi-judicial authorities. This act was enacted in order to consolidate the fundamental right in the Indian constitution ‘freedom of speech’.

Due to RTI many scams have come to light, to mention few, Adarsh Scam, 2G Scam, Common Wealth Games -Diversion of Dalit funds, Indian Red Cross Society Scam, Billionaire Anil Agarwal’s University In Orissa.

Such a powerful instrument in the hands of citizens that was working very well, why it is being changed? Was this change needed at all?

Changes made by 2019 amendment:

1. No fixed tenure and salary, as it’s a statutory body. (Statutory body is created by law passed by the parliament unlike constitutional body. Constitutional body, is created as it is mentioned int he constitution of India, for example, Public Service Commission, Election Commission). With Amendment, the central government will fix the salary, allowances and tenure according to their wish.

Earlier Chief Information Commissioner had a fixed tenure of 5 years and salary was benchmarked with that of the Chief Election Commissioner.

With this amendment if the officer favour central government, then there are all possibilities of extended tenure and good allowances.

2. Centre will appoint the Chief Information Commissioners in the centre as well as in the states.

Earlier, a panel was formed which included Prime Minister, Leader of the opposition party and a cabinet minister nominated by the Prime Minister. Similarly, in States, the panel consisted of Chief Minister, leader of the opposition party, and a cabinet minister nominated by CM.

With this amendment the state wont have any power in regard to appointment of the information officers. The centre controls everything. The centre will appointment who will function according to their wishes.

3. Centre can remove the Chief Information Commissioners, as they are appointed by centre.

Earlier, President or Governor had the power to remove the commissioners after an enquiry by the Supreme Court.

Now, with the amendment the Commissioner can be removed if he does not listen to the centre.

So, autonomous of the RTI body is lost, although citizens can continue to file applications for information, while receiving information for a query concerning government seems to be quite challenged.

The amendment was not at all needed and no way has it improved the efficiency of this powerful statutory body. The amendment act is regressive in nature than being progressive.

Source: Wikipedia and Indiatimes

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