RTI amendment Bill deathblow to law: Social activist

RTI amendment Bill deathblow to law: Social activist

Social activist and founder of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) Aruna Roy during a press conference in Jaipur on Monday.

Social activist and founder of  Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) termed the proposed amendment in RTI act a backstab on the Central Information Commission (CIC) and a deathblow to the law.

"The NDA Government introduced the RTI Amendment Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha on Friday (July 19, 2019). The proposed amendments are regressive and are aimed squarely at undermining the independence of information commissions, thereby diluting India’s strongest and most widely used framework for transparency. Ever since it came into existence in 2005, the Information Commission has had enough authority to issue directions to anybody, including the cabinet secretary and principal secretary regarding the disclosure of information under the RTI Act," Aruna Roy, one of the activists who spearheaded  the RTI movement in India, said at a press conference in Jaipur on Monday.  

"The bill seeks to amend the RTI Act in order to empower the Central government to unilaterally decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of Information Commissioners at the Centre and States.  The NDA government has done so by wilfully misrepresenting an amendment to a basic feature of the law, as a function of rule-making," she added. 

Calling it a matter of grave concern, the other social activist present at the press conference from PUCL and MKSS said that the amendments to the RTI Law were introduced in complete secrecy and in flagrant violation of the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy of the Central government which mandates public disclosure and consultation on draft legislation. 

As the RTI Act stands today, it provides for a fixed tenure of 5 years for information commissioners (subject to the age limit of 65 years). Further, the salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the Chief of the Central Information Commission are the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner. This is a part of the basic structure of the existing law and therefore any amendment to these provisions undermines the basic structure of the RTI.

If this Bill is passed, the guarantee for the Commissioner’s term and stature for five years will no longer remain. This means the legislative safeguard to the term of Commissioner is abolished and the government of the day will be empowered to prescribe any term, stature or salary.