The Right to Information
- Bihar has become hostile terrain for Right to Information (RTI) activists.
- Around 20 activists having been killed since 2010. Six activists were killed in 2018 alone.
- The right to information is a fundamental right. It is mentioned in Article 19 (1) of the Indian Constitution.
- In the Raj Narain vs the State of Uttar Pradesh case verdict, the Supreme Court ruled that Right to information will be treated as a fundamental right under article 19.
- The government enforced the Right to Information act in 2005. It made available the machinery for exercising this right.
The Right to Information Act
- The act enable ordinary citizens to question the government and its working.
- This has been a tool for the citizens and media to uncover corruption, track progress in government work, analyse expenses related information, etc.
- The act makes it compulsory for public authorities of union and state government, to provide response to the citizens’ request for information within a limited timeframe.
- Penalties can be imposed if the authorities delay in responding to the citizen in the stipulated time.
What comes under the purview of the act?
- All constitutional authorities, agencies, owned and controlled by the govt.
- Organisations which are substantially funded by the government.
What type of information can be requested through RTI?
- Any information that the government can disclose to the parliament can be claimed under RTI Act.
- Certain information that can affect the sovereignty and the integrity of India is exempted from the purview of RTI. Some of them are information relating to:
- Internal security
- Relations with foreign countries
- Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
- Cabinet discussions
Objectives of the RTI Act
- Empowering citizens to question the government. This increases the accountability of the govt.
- To make the working of the government more transparent.
- To keep a check on corruption in the government.
- To cultivate awareness among people and develop well-informed citizens who are vigil about the functioning of the government machinery.
- The Centre government was given the powers to set the salaries and service conditions of Information Commissioners at central as well as state levels.
- The term of the central Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners appointed will be decided by the Central Government.
- Under the original RTI Act, the salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the state Chief Information Commissioner was the same as that of an Election Commissioner. Similarly, the salaries and other terms of service of the State Information Commissioners was equal to the Chief Secretary to the State Government. But, according to the new amendment, all these are going to be prescribed by the Central Government.
- The amendments diminish the independence of the Central Information Commissioner.
- Lowering the status of the CIC, IC and State CIC from that of a Supreme Court judge would adversely affect their ability to issue directives to senior government functionaries.
- By letting the Centre make rules to decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of information commissioners of the Central and also State Information Commissions, the amendment act weaken the institution of the information commissions.
- The government did not held any public consultations to discuss on the Bill.