ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Amended RTI vs Participatory Democracy

Asymmetry of information between citizens and the state erodes the functioning of a transparent democracy.

 

The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill passed by Parliament recently threatens to strike at the core of the right to information (RTI) and undermines the institution of the Central Information Commission (CIC). The hurried manner in which it was introduced without following the pre-legislative consultation policy creates serious doubts about the intentions of the government. Why would this government deem it necessary to foreclose a rigorous scrutiny of these amendments? Why the insistence on not sending the bill to a select committee? A closer look at the amendments suggests the continuation of its practice of hollowing institutions and rights of their essence while they continue to exist formally.

The RTI Act, 2005 empowers the citizen to question the secrecy and abuse of power practised in governance. It is through the information commissions at the central and state levels that access to such information is provided. This information can be regarded as a public good, for it is relevant to the interests of citizens and is a crucial pillar for the functioning of a transparent and vibrant democracy. The RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2019 amends Sections 13, 15 and 27 of the RTI Act, 2005 to empower the central government to prescribe through rules the tenure, salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the chief and other information commissioners at the central and state levels. But, the amendments that grant powers to the centre to decide on the tenure, allowances, and terms of service of information commissioners, by tinkering with the incentive structure offered, would undermine the autonomy and independence of the institution of the information commissions and hinder the effective implementation of the RTI as enshrined in the act.

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Updated On : 27th Jul, 2019

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