Right to Information (RTI) Act

  • Right to Information (RTI) Act

      About:

  • The Right to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information
  •  The basic object of the Right to Information Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in a real sense.

Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019:

 

§  It provided that the Chief Information Commissioner and an Information Commissioner (of Centre as well as States) shall hold office for such term as prescribed by the Central Government. Before this amendment, their term was fixed for 5 years.

 

§  It provided that the salary, allowances and other service conditions of the Chief Information Commissioner and an Information Commissioner (of Centre as well as States) shall be such as prescribed by the Central Government.

 

o   Before this amendment, the salary, allowances, and other service conditions of the Chief Information Commissioner were similar to those of the Chief Election Commissioner and that of an Information Commissioner were similar to those of an Election Commissioner (State Election Commissioners in the case of States).

 

§  It removed the provisions regarding deductions in the salary of the Chief Information Commissioner, an Information Commissioner, the State Chief Information Commissioner, and a State Information Commissioner due to pension or any other retirement benefits received by them for their previous government service.

 

§  The RTI (Amendment) Act, 2019 was criticized on grounds of diluting the law and giving more powers to the central government.

 

Issues in the Implementation:

 

§  Non-compliance in proactive disclosure by public authorities

§  The hostile approach of Public Information Officers (PIOs) toward citizens and misinterpreting provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act to conceal information.

§  Lack of clarity on what public interest is and the right to privacy

§  Lack of political will and poor infrastructure

§  Rejection of information requests made by active citizens on important matters of public importance

§  Covert means of attacks and threats against RTI activists and applicants to suppress their voices

 

Way Forward

§      Proper Functioning of Information Commissions:

o   The proper functioning of information commissions is crucial for people to realize their right to information.

o   Under the RTI law, information commissions are the final appellate authority and are mandated to safeguard and facilitate people’s fundamental right to information.

§  Transparency:

o   There is an urgent need for the transparency watchdogs to function in a more effective and transparent manner.

§  Digitization of the System:

o   The digital RTI portal (website or mobile app) can deliver more efficient and citizen-friendly services which is not possible through conventional mode.

o   This will be beneficial for both transparency seekers and the government.

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