[op-ed snap] Dark clouds over the RTI

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency & accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: The Right to Information (RTI) Act

Mains level: Amendments being done in the RTI Act and its implications on the accountability revolution ushering in the country


Context

Proposed amendments to RTI Act

  1. The government has struck another blow against transparency and accountability
  2. The legislative agenda of the monsoon session of Parliament says: “To amend The Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005″
  3. The RTI Act has been under constant threat of amendments
  4. At least two major attempts to amend the Act have been met with such strong popular resistance that the government of the day has had to back off

No good intent

  1. Any amendment to the law should have been discussed before it went to the cabinet, as in the “pre-legislative consultation policy” of the government of India
  2. Bureaucratic jargon such as “consideration” is a euphemism for pushing the amendment through without due consideration of parliamentary processes
  3. There have been steps to steamroller legislative measures (in the garb of money Bills) that have destabilised access to information such as Aadhaar and electoral bonds
  4. Applications for information about amendments made under the RTI Act have been stonewalled and information denied

Retracting from disclosure

  1. Amendments to the RTI rules that were put up for public feedback have reportedly been withdrawn after objections
  2. There have been reports that the proposed amendments seek to change the status of the information commissions

RTI promotes transparency

  1. The spirit of the RTI law lies in not just the filing of an RTI application and getting an answer
  2. It actually mandates the replacement of a prevailing culture of secrecy with a culture of transparency
  3. Under Section 4(2) of the RTI Act, which has been poorly implemented, it says: “It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to provide as much information suomotu to the public at regular intervals so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information”

Way forward

  1. Since 2005, the RTI Act has helped transform the relationship between the citizen and government, dismantle illegitimate concentrations of power, legitimise the demand for answers, and assist people in changing centuries of feudal and colonial relationships
  2. Secret amendments to a law fashioned and used extensively are deeply suspect
  3. Any move to amend the RTI Act must involve public consultation
RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.
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