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
- Amendments have been passed without scrutiny by a parliamentary committee.
- It changes the term in office of the information commissioners (ICs) and the manner of determination of their salaries.
- In place of the existing five-year term, it grants to the Union government the power to notify their terms through executive regulations.
- 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.
- 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
- 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)
- 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.
- When a plea for information goes unheeded, CIC and the ICs play an especially vital role.
- These amendments subvert the independence of the information commission.
- 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
- 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.
- An exposé into the horrifying processes of the “Foreigners Tribunal” in Assam was made by securing information through the RTI Act.