The Lok Sabha on Monday ( 22 July 2019 ) passed the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2019 which seeks to amend the RTI Act 2005.
Another attempt has been made to amend the RTI Act. This effort is somewhat different from earlier efforts. In the efforts made so far, an amendment proposal was drafted for discussions between different classes and the public. The present amendment proposal was presented directly in Parliament without any discussion. It is perhaps a sign of the fact that the government has decided that it has to be passed. In this decision, the heavy majority in the ruling party’s Lok Sabha also has some effect. The Right to Information Act was implemented in 2005. The parliament passed it with the majority. Only one year after its implementation, it was proposed to amend it. Going into a little depth showed that the real aim of the amendment was to weaken the law. After knowing this, the RTI activists protested strongly, after that government withdrew the offer. Efforts were made to make such a proposal three times, but due to the opposition, they had to be withdrawn.
The present government tried to make changes in this law even during its first term, but it was withdrawn. Important modifications will be made now in the status and function of the information commissioners and the condition of the service under which the proposals are proposed to be embodied. Present status of the information commissioners and the status of work and service are under the control of the Parliament. If the proposed amendments are passed, then all these rights will be fully met to the Central Government and the government can do whatever it wants, without the approval of the Parliament. The result will be that the information commissioners will be completely under the central government. Their freedom will end at last. In such a situation, the Information Commission will be very scared to take any decision against the will of the government. In fact, no decision will be taken against the will of the government. The basic purpose of RTI law is to get information from the government to the citizens. Especially the information that the government wants to hide. If the Information Commission will not take any decision or take any decision against the will of the government, then the Information Commission will not be able to fulfill the basic purpose of the Right to Information Act. There is no meaning of having the Right to Information Act and Information Commission. In the last nearly 14 years, since the Right to Information Act has been implemented, about 40 to 60 lacs citizens have used it to protect their original rights or have received legitimate services for themselves from government establishments.
This is the first law after independence that has empowered ordinary citizens. By weakening it, the common citizens will be reduced in the country even further. Why is it that every government wants to change this law? There can be many answers to this question. First of all, it comes to mind that all governments want to keep their work secret. The reason for keeping the secret is mainly because of some wrongdoing done or the reasons for which the public can be implicated on the image of the government. Before answering this question, it is necessary to state that when this bill was presented in the Lok Sabha, then some political parties had opposed it first, but when voting was held during the partition of Lok Sabha, 224 MPs voted and only nine MPs voted against it. During this time, some opposition parties went out of the house. The protest of only nine MPs seems to indicate that there is some sympathy with this amendment proposal even in opposition parties. Why is that so? This question is answered in the Central Information Commission’s June 3, 2013 judgment. In this decision, the full Bench of the Central Information Commission said that six national political parties are public authorities under the Right to Information Act. These include Bharatiya Janata Party, Indian National Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Nationalist Congress Party, CPI (M) and CPI It was meant to come under the ambit of RTI, that all these parties have to appoint their public information officers and the information sought under the Right to Information Act will be given. All six parties openly disregard this decision of the Central Information Commission. In order to avoid following this order, these political parties ignored the notices of the Central Information Commission. For this reason, the Central Information Commission said on March 16, 2015, that it is legally unable to implement its right decision. Now the matter is under consideration in the Supreme Court where the central government has stated in its affidavit that the Right to Information Act should not be applicable to political parties. It is difficult to understand why this should not apply?
The fact is that even if any political party is in power, the Right to Information Act will always be on the target of the governments, but it is the duty of the citizens to save and prevent it from being weak. The Right to Information Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha after passing from the Lok Sabha. There is a demand that it be sent to the Select Committee. See whether it can happen or not? It is also to see that if this amendment bill is sent to the Select Committee due to the demand of the opposition then does it work to save its original form or not? In any case, it is expected that the RTI activist community will certainly be successful in protecting this very important law. If not, the country’s democracy will be a big loss.