21st Jul 2019 08:07:PM Editorials
Eastern Sentinel Arunachal News

Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that proposes certain changes in RTI, 2005 was placed in LS on Friday last and has attracted wide protests by opposition. Those against it are of the view that these changes will weaken the RTI architecture and thus rob this law which has been widely hailed as a great tool of fighting corruption, from the desired edge. And given the volume of protest that has just started, particularly from the fraternity that espouses RTI activism, it is obvious that there is going to be a lot of debates in the coming days.

The amendment seeks to bring two fundamental alterations which are-changing the tenure of Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioner (IC) at central/state levels from the existing five years or until the attainment of 65 years of age to ‘such term’ as may be prescribed by Central government. Secondly, it proposes a change in salaries and allowances of CIC & IC from the current pattern which is equivalent to that drawn by Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner at central level and State CIC and IC which is at par with EC and Chief Secretary of the state to ‘as prescribed’ by Central government. It will be interesting to note that voices of protests are coming in not only from RTI activists and opposition leaders but also from former Information Commissioners, all expressing fear that it would compromise the autonomy and independence of these officials through whom the Act gets implemented on ground level. It can be recalled that it was mainly due to their protests central government backed out from a similar effort in 2018.

Statement of Objects and Reasons of the RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2019 reasons that the functions being carried out by ECI and Central and State Information Commissions are fundamentally different. While the EC is a constitutional body, Central/State Information Commissions are statutory bodies established under RTI Act and thus their status and service conditions need to be rationalized accordingly. Champions of the Bill also argue that when enacted it will further streamline and smoothen the delivery mechanism of the Act and add to its overall effectiveness. But these ‘justifications’ have failed to convince critics who believe that it’s an attempt to kill the citizen’s ‘Right to Know’. They fear it would compromise the autonomy and independence of Information Commissions as well as Commissioners and will be detrimental to federalism, good governance and ultimately, democracy.

The issue will no doubt invite vociferous arguments and it will be possible to ascertain the after-effects of the amendment only after its enactment as law. Only future will tell whether it’s going to be an age of ‘added transparency’ or ‘opacity’.

Kenter Joya Riba

(Managing Editor)
      She is a graduate in Science with post graduation in Sociology from University of Pune. She has been in the media industry for nearly a decade. Before turning to print business, she has been associated with radio and television.
Email: kenterjoyaz@easternsentinel.in / editoreasternsentinel@gmail.com
Phone: 0360-2212313

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