RTI Amendment Bill 2013 – Compromised Right to Information!

23 Sep

For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise.                                                                                                                –  Benjamin Franklin 

 The Right to Information Act (RTI) is an Act of the Parliament of India “to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens“. The Act applies to all States and Union Territories of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir has its own act called Jammu & Kashmir Right to Information Act, 2009. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and to pro-actively publish certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally. This law was passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 12 October 2005.

 Central Intelligence and Security agencies specified in the Second Schedule like IB,Directorate General of Income tax(Investigation), RAW, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, Directorate of Enforcement, Narcotics Control Bureau, Aviation Research Centre, Special Frontier Force, BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, NSG, Assam Rifles, Special Service Bureau, Special Branch (CID), and similar few more. The exclusion, however, is not absolute and these organizations have an obligation to provide information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations. Further, information relating to allegations of human rights violation could be given but only with the approval of the Central or State Information Commission.


Thus this act enables people of India to seek information about anything on going in the country from bodies which are directly or indirectly funded by Central Government and work for public interest. 

 On June 3 Central Information Commission (CIC) issued an order to Union Cabinet, which held the six major political parties Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI(M), CPI and BSP received subsidies from the exchequer and were thus answerable to the people under the RTI. The CIC, a quasi-judicial body, has said that six national parties are public authorities which have been substantially funded indirectly by the central government. The CIC had in its order held that this six national parties were required to appoint public information officers as they have the character of a public authority under the RTI Act. 

 The order had evoked sharp reactions from political parties of non agreement  especially Congress which has been credited with bringing in the transparency law. The government or this political parties clearly show that they are not at all willing to be put under this act. Thus this led to Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2013 was introduced on August 12 in the Lower House by Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions V Narayanasamy. The Union Cabinet had cleared the proposal to amend the Act to give immunity to political parties and negate a Central Information Commission order to this effect. 

 It was UPA who responded by deciding to charge the law to negate CIC ruling, though on record senior ministers maintain the final decision on whether any bill is to be referred to a parliamentary committee for further scrutiny rests with the Speaker, based on the views of different political parties, the government has informally conveyed that it wants the bill to be passed during the ongoing Monsoon session itself. This means the amendment to exempt political parties from the RTI could be discussed and passed by both Houses of Parliament before September 6. The amendment is likely to be discussed in Lok Sabha on monday. The government confidence is based on the fact that with the exception of the Trinamool Congress and the BJD, all other political parties are united in being kept out of the transparency act. 

 This amendment is on its way with a rapid speed to become a law which obviously is not happening with  any other bills in the parliament. Why do this political parties need a shied from RTI act? They are representatives of people of India and sincerely work for public welfare then they are definitely answerable to the people. Many RTI activist have opposed the proposed amendments. 

 ” The principle of transparency of political financing is increasingly gaining international recognition. Instead of bucking this trend by amending the RTI Act, political parties in India must act on civil society’s demand for greater transparency in their affairs. This change of mindset is more than likely to restore people’s confidence in the political establishment. “

PS. Visit the Right to Information website and there is a quiz on RTI which everyone should          undertake.

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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Uncategorized


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