The National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing anguish and concern regarding "regressive" amendments being proposed to the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Relying on media reports, the letter states that even though a bill to amend the Act has been drafted, it has not been made public yet. This, it asserts, "undermines people’s democratic right to know and participate in the legislative process and prevents public scrutiny of the provisions of a proposed bill".
Further, highlighting the necessity of such consultation, the letter states, "The necessity and significance of public consultation in the process of law-making is widely recognized by democratic governments across the world. In 2014, a Pre-legislative Consultation Policy was adopted by the Government of India which mandates that all draft legislations (including subordinate legislation) be placed in the public domain for 30 days for inviting public comments and a summary of comments be made available on the concerned ministry’s website prior to being sent for Cabinet approval."
NCPRI goes on to add a note of caution against dilution of the Act as well, with reports claiming that the amendments might empower the Central Government and State Governments to decide salaries of information commissioners through rules. Such amendments, it says, would greatly impinge upon the independence of the information commissioners.
It further writes, "With over six million information applications filed every year, the Indian Right to Information (RTI) Act is the most extensively used transparency legislation globally. The law has been used by people to fight corruption and wrongdoing in the system. By empowering millions of citizens across the country to question public authorities, the RTI Act has initiated the vital task of redistributing power in a democratic framework. It is critical that no amendments are brought to dilute the law in anyway."
The NCPRI, therefore, urges PM Modi to ensure that the text of the proposed RTI Amendment Bill is made available in the public domain, along with reasons for proposing the changes, to "enable wide discussion and public debate" before it is introduced in Parliament.