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Journey of RTI Act – From being Voice to Voiceless

Author :- Sonu Chaturvedi

Introduction –

On 12th day of May, 2005 remarkable Act was passed in Parliament after tremendous efforts of Aruna Roy (Former IAS Officer) and Anna Hazare (Indian Social Activist) and others for paving the foundation for enactment of ‘Right To Information Act, 2005.’ On 12th day of October, 2005 this act finally came into force making ‘Public Authority’ except for ‘Exempted Authority’ defined under Section 2(8)(e) of the act, Accountable for their act by establishing transparency in governance to curb corruption and other activities not being in public interest and laid down the provision for establishment of Central Information Commission  (An independent statutory body) just like Election Commission was made hereunder.

Right to information is constitutionally empowered as one of the fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) which talks about freedom of speech and expression and for expressing one shall have knowledge and that knowledge can be attained from RTI.

We all are aware about RTI act and its provisions thereunder, I would like to throw some light on its importance to understand about recent amendment under the act.

What changes RTI brought – by making public authority accountable?

Beauty of this Act is that one can acquire information for personal use like getting clarifications on Title and ownership of land before purchasing or getting copy of checked Answer sheets from various Educational Institutions  to exposing Adarsh Society Scam, CWG Scam, 2G Scam in interest of public to Questions being  raised on  – Qualification of various Ministers including Prime Minister , Environment Clearance , Construction , Non repayment of Bank Loans, etc. is giving voice to voiceless citizens which is now in threat and no wonder now you know why they want to restrict our voice.

Why this amendment shall be matter of concern to ALL Indians?

Right to Information Amendment Act, 2019 was passed in parliament on 22nd day of July, 2019. An amendment which is a disappointment, even Aruna Roy and Anna Hazare along with other activist protested against this amendment but couldn’t stop such amendment because of 1 page explanation letter by government defending themselves by reflecting that this will empower RTI Act which isn’t the case. Talking about amendments, it is evident that where amendments are needed, they’re being neglected, for instance striking out Reservation system is never welcomed for securing vote banks but with political agenda molding the act which is known for its grand success.

Eye Opening Facts on Amendment –

As Pubic Authorities were getting uncomfortable with our freedom and hence deliberately with desire to steal, yes! steal the independence of RTI act by altering Section 13 and Section 16 of the act which talks about Appointment, Salary and Tenure of Information Commissioner (IC)  which provides for salary at par with Election commissioner with fixed tenure of  5 years under act before amendment.

After Amendment Effect –

RTI is independent because when Public Information Officer (PIO) doesn’t provide timely and accurate information one can appeal to Information Commissioner, central or state as the case may be. This amendment is interrupting uninfluenced mind of IC by taking away their independence.

Political Game on Lack of transparency in Appointment of Information Commissioner (IC) –

They are taking away the independence of IC by appointing them and fixing their salary, so as an employee of government they will be under influenced due to fear of unfavorable transfers, dismissal or due to desire of higher salary or promotion they may not raise their voice which defeats the purpose of this whole act.
Almost Thirty Thousand plus cases are pending before commission till now because of government interference, pending appeal on ground of question of law or facts and vacant positions of Information Commissioners.
Provision is made for one Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) along with not more than ten other IC under the act for speedy redressal of grievances but as per the sources until 2018 there were only Three IC officers in spite of multiple case being pending before the commission and eight positions were still vacant. After raising concern by activists like Ms. Anjali Bhardwaj, Four IC got appointed, four more positions still being vacant and that’s how they try to block the flow of information.

Brainstorming – Why Indian Police’s Act isn’t independent?
Because political parties have power to transfer police officers from one place to another.
The reason why the election commission body is kept independent in India by that same reason in 2005 the framers of the most effective RTI act kept Central Information Commissioner Body free from Central Government Interference.Sau Baat Ki Ek Baat
Needless to say that RTI act is the most successful and efficient in history of India, glorifying citizens by providing them a peaceful weapon to raise their voice. Such amendment will never be welcomed by citizens who are aware about the sharpness of this weapon enhancing fuel to democratic values of Indians.
Information flow creates scope of accountability on Public authority defined under section 2(h) of RTI act as we pay almost 20% of our hard earned money as taxes so we have all the rights to question them and have the power to stop the wrong.
Filing RTI is extremely easy and one can even make an E- Application through the official website – https://rtionline.gov.in/ . Young energies, being from law background or not shall start using this tools for betterment of nation. Filing RTI is good practice to be performed by all responsible citizens. And equally we all are liable towards protection of independence of this act from government interference for protecting our Fundamental Right.
From Aruna Roy to Ms. Anjali Bhardwaj ran the public movement by filing more RTIs and PILs for clarification on amendment in RTI act and whereas Shri Anna Hazare expressed that, “At 82, I am getting on in age and do not have the strength to lead new agitations. However, if the youth and citizens take the lead, I will participate in such a demonstration against the weakening of the RTI Act” leading toward dictatorship but by twisting words they twisted law in such a way that there is a threat to this act defeating the very purpose of enactment and this may turn into No Right to Information Act, 2019 instead of Right to Information Act, 2005.

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