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Freedom Politics

Amendments to RTI Act "Regressive: Protests

Sabrangindia 22 Jul 2019
Drastic amendments to the RTI Act of 2005 proposed by the Modi.2 Govt have given rise to widespread proetsts.--against the proposed “regressive amendments” of the Right to Information Act, (RTI), 2005.A protest followed by a public meeting and press conference is being organised by National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), in collaboration with various campaigns and groups including the National Alliance of Peoples Movements (NAPM), Right to Food Campaign and the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW).

RTI
Image Courtesy: Getty Images
 
The current government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) introduced the RTI Amendment Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha suddenly, without any public consultation. The suggested amendments were also introduced by the BJP government in 2018 in the monsoon session of the Parliament. However, due to widespread criticism and public pressure, the amendments couldn’t be passed.
 
Public intellectuals and activists feel that the “proposed amendments are extremely regressive and are aimed at undermining the independence of information commissions, thereby diluting India’s strongest and most widely used framework for transparency.”
 
Through the amendments, government has given itself the powers to set the salaries and service conditions for Information Commissioners.
 
The Bill amends Sections 13 and 16 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. Section 13 of the original Act sets the term of the central Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at five years (or until the age of 65, whichever is earlier). The amendment proposes that the appointment will be “for such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government”. Again, Section 13 states 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 that of an Election Commissioner”. The amendment proposes that 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”.
 
Section 16 of the original Act deals with state-level Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners. It sets the term for state-level CICs and ICs at five years (or 65 years of age, whichever is earlier). The amendment proposes that these appointments should be for “such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government”. And while the original Act prescribes salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the state Chief Information Commissioner as “the same as that of an Election Commissioner”, and the salaries and other terms of service of the State Information Commissioners as “the same as that of the Chief Secretary to the State Government”, the amendment proposes that these “shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government”.
 
The original Act had quantified the tenures, and defined the salaries in terms of existing benchmarks. The amendments are being viewed as implying that, in effect, the terms of appointment, salaries and tenures of the Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners can be decided on a case-to-case basis by the government. The Opposition has argued that this will take away the independence of the RTI authorities.
 
The RTI Act is regarded as one of the most successful laws of independent India. It has given ordinary citizens the confidence and the right to ask questions of government authorities. According to estimates, nearly 60 lakh applications are being filed every year. It is used by citizens as well as the media. The law is seen as having acted as a deterrent for government servants against taking arbitrary decisions.
 
The RTI Amendment Bill is now listed for discussion and passage in the Lok Sabha on Monday, the 22nd of July.

Representatives of political parties have been invited to attend the Jan Manch and press conference to put forth the position of their respective parties on the issue. Representatives of peoples' movements, senior lawyers and former information commissioners are also expected to join the protest programmes.

Amendments to RTI Act "Regressive: Protests

Drastic amendments to the RTI Act of 2005 proposed by the Modi.2 Govt have given rise to widespread proetsts.--against the proposed “regressive amendments” of the Right to Information Act, (RTI), 2005.A protest followed by a public meeting and press conference is being organised by National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), in collaboration with various campaigns and groups including the National Alliance of Peoples Movements (NAPM), Right to Food Campaign and the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW).

RTI
Image Courtesy: Getty Images
 
The current government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) introduced the RTI Amendment Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha suddenly, without any public consultation. The suggested amendments were also introduced by the BJP government in 2018 in the monsoon session of the Parliament. However, due to widespread criticism and public pressure, the amendments couldn’t be passed.
 
Public intellectuals and activists feel that the “proposed amendments are extremely regressive and are aimed at undermining the independence of information commissions, thereby diluting India’s strongest and most widely used framework for transparency.”
 
Through the amendments, government has given itself the powers to set the salaries and service conditions for Information Commissioners.
 
The Bill amends Sections 13 and 16 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. Section 13 of the original Act sets the term of the central Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at five years (or until the age of 65, whichever is earlier). The amendment proposes that the appointment will be “for such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government”. Again, Section 13 states 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 that of an Election Commissioner”. The amendment proposes that 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”.
 
Section 16 of the original Act deals with state-level Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners. It sets the term for state-level CICs and ICs at five years (or 65 years of age, whichever is earlier). The amendment proposes that these appointments should be for “such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government”. And while the original Act prescribes salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the state Chief Information Commissioner as “the same as that of an Election Commissioner”, and the salaries and other terms of service of the State Information Commissioners as “the same as that of the Chief Secretary to the State Government”, the amendment proposes that these “shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government”.
 
The original Act had quantified the tenures, and defined the salaries in terms of existing benchmarks. The amendments are being viewed as implying that, in effect, the terms of appointment, salaries and tenures of the Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners can be decided on a case-to-case basis by the government. The Opposition has argued that this will take away the independence of the RTI authorities.
 
The RTI Act is regarded as one of the most successful laws of independent India. It has given ordinary citizens the confidence and the right to ask questions of government authorities. According to estimates, nearly 60 lakh applications are being filed every year. It is used by citizens as well as the media. The law is seen as having acted as a deterrent for government servants against taking arbitrary decisions.
 
The RTI Amendment Bill is now listed for discussion and passage in the Lok Sabha on Monday, the 22nd of July.

Representatives of political parties have been invited to attend the Jan Manch and press conference to put forth the position of their respective parties on the issue. Representatives of peoples' movements, senior lawyers and former information commissioners are also expected to join the protest programmes.

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