RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

[op-ed snap] Incisive interventions that blunt the RTI’s edge


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Challenges posed by amendments to RTI


The RTI Act, 2005 proved transformative to India’s democracy; it revolutionized the citizen’s ability to engage with the state, arming people with a mechanism to ferret out some of the truth from the government’s otherwise secretive operations.

Amendments to the act

  1. Amendments have been passed without scrutiny by a parliamentary committee.
  2. It changes the term in office of the information commissioners (ICs) and the manner of determination of their salaries.
  3. In place of the existing five-year term, it grants to the Union government the power to notify their terms through executive regulations.
  4. It deletes the RTI Act’s mandate that the salary paid to the CIC and the ICs should be equivalent to that of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
  5. Now, the salary, allowances, and terms and conditions of service of the CIC and the ICs will be determined by executive guidelines.

Challenges it poses

  1. Supreme Court has affirmed RTI’s position as intrinsic to the right to freedom of expression (for example, in PUCL v. Union of India, 2004)
  2. For democracy to be valuable, citizens must possess a right to freely express themselves and have a right to know what the state is up to.
  3. When a plea for information goes unheeded, CIC and the ICs play an especially vital role. 
  4. These amendments subvert the independence of the information commission.
  5. The delegation of the power to fix the tenure and the salaries of the CIC and the ICs to the political executive places the information commission’s autonomy in a state of peril. 

Efficacy of RTI

  1. Through a response to an RTI request, it was discovered that between 2006 and 2010 more than ₹700 crore had been diverted from Delhi’s special component plan for the development of Scheduled Caste communities to projects related to the Commonwealth Games.
  2. An exposé into the horrifying processes of the “Foreigners Tribunal” in Assam was made by securing information through the RTI Act.
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