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Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Topic covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019

 

What to study?

For prelims: key features of RTI, amendments proposed and the need.

For main: significance of RTI, issues present and measures to address these issues.

 

Context: The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that amends the Right to Information Act, 2005 has been introduced in Lok Sabha.

 

What does the RTI Act do?  

Under the RTI Act, 2005, Public Authorities are required to make disclosures on various aspects of their structure and functioning. 

This includes: (i) disclosure on their organisation, functions, and structure, (ii) powers and duties of its officers and employees, and (iii) financial information. 

 

Need:

The intent of such suo moto disclosures is that the public should need minimum recourse through the Act to obtain such information. The intent behind the enactment of the Act is to promote transparency and accountability in the working of Public Authorities.  

 

Who is included in the ambit of ‘Public Authorities’? 

‘Public Authorities’ include bodies of self-government established under the Constitution, or under any law or government notification.  For instance, these include Ministries, public sector undertakings, and regulators.  It also includes any entities owned, controlled or substantially financed and non-government organizations substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by the government.

 

How is the right to information enforced under the Act?

The Act has established a three tier structure for enforcing the right to information guaranteed under the Act

Public Authorities designate some of their officers as Public Information Officers

The first request for information goes to Central/State Assistant Public Information Officer and Central/State Public Information Officer, designated by the Public Authorities. These Officers are required to provide information to an RTI applicant within 30 days of the request.  

Appeals from their decisions go to an Appellate Authority

 

Information Commissions:

Appeals against the order of the Appellate Authority go to the State Information Commission or the Central Information Commission. 

These Information Commissions consists of a Chief Information Commissioner, and up to 10 Information Commissioners.

   

What does the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 propose?

The Bill changes the terms and conditions of service of the CIC and Information Commissioners at the centre and in states. 

The Bill states that the central government will notify the term of office for the CIC and the ICs.

The Bill states that the salaries, allowances, and other terms and conditions of service of the central and state CIC and ICs will be determined by the central government.

 

Mains Question: The Right to Information (RTI) has emerged as an effective tool for citizen’s dispute resolution. Should the ambit of RTI be expanded to politicians and Judiciary too? Give your opinion with substantial justification.