This paper deals with the amendments brought under the Right To Information Act,
2005. The Right To Information Act, 2005 was introduced in 2005 to make the
citizens aware about the activities taken up by the Government of India. The Act
empowers the citizens, ensures transparency and accountability in the working of
the Government. It curtails corruption and ensures the smooth functioning of
democracy in the government.
We will discuss the adoption of amendments brought
under the act through the Right To Information Amendment Act, 2019 and will
discuss whether the amendments brought under the act was a benefit for the
citizens or it defeated the purpose of the act. It discussed the role of the
Central Government who has enacted certain changes under the act which makes
those changes that this act has defeated the purpose of the Constitution by
causing threat to the fundamental rights of the citizens.
The paper will also
discuss the impact the amendment had on the Information Commissioners who have
been highly affected through this act and will put forward certain solutions
which will ensure the efficacy of the RTI Act and its responsibility towards the
citizens of the country
The Right to Information Act, 2005 was enacted by Indian Parliament on October
12, 2005. The main purpose behind launching the act was to provide the citizens
the right to access information from the public authorities. This act provides a
pathway for the citizens to have the freedom of right to information in order to
promote transparency and accountability in the functioning of the public
It established the Central Information Commission and State
Information Commissions to deal with the matters related to the act. An Indian
Citizen has access to any information which it required from the offices and
departments of the Government, state and central both. The officers of the
departments have to provide information to the citizens in a timely manner,
i.e., within 30 days of receiving such application.
However, such information
must not be personal in nature, or it must be related to defence matter or
matters related to the national security of our country. Before this act was
enacted, the Official Secrets Act and other special laws prevented the
disclosure of information, but after the enactment of Right To Information Act,
now the citizens can freely enable the departments to disclosure such
information which a citizen must know.
History Behind The Enactment Of Such Act
In the Year 1987, labourers in Rajasthan were denied wages on the grounds of
inconsistent performance. They approached Mazdoor Kissan Shakti Sanghatan who
was an activist group who worked for these workers. The group demanded the
government to produce those documents which proved that the workers has not
performed their jobs properly. They started their protests and they were able to
prove the corruption present in the government offices.
Thus, the activist group
demanded for the enactment for the Right To Information. The protest conducted
became a national protest and this led to the passing of the Freedom of
Information Act, 2002 which later became the RTI Act 2005. In 1996, Justice PB
Sawant, the Chairman of the Press Council of India had drafted the right to
information bill which stated that every citizen of India has the Right to
Information from the government bodies and it shall be the duty of the
government bodies to provide all the information to the public.
RTI Act was
passed by the legislation of Parliament of India on 15 June 2005. The Act came
into effect on 12 October 2005 and has been implemented across the country to
provide information to the citizens of the country. Thus the Right To
Information Act, 2005 was enacted so that the Indian citizens can freely
exercise their rights to seek information from the government departments and
get their questions answered.
Reason Behind Bringing Amendments In The Act
In the year 2019, an amendment was made in the RTI Act, 2005. Jitendra Singh,
Minister of State stated that the government in 2005 was in a hurry to pass the
RTI Act, 2005 and had not taken into consideration many things. He specified
that the mandate of Election Commission of India and Central and State
Information Commissions are different, so the status and service conditions of
them must be equal and rationale.
The Central Information Commissioner was given
the status of a Supreme Court judge but his decisions could be easily challenged
in the High Courts. The act prevents the government from making rules. So,
amendment in the Right To Information Act, 2005 is necessary.
The Right to Information Amendment Bill, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha by the
Mr. Jitendra Singh, on July 19, 2019 and was passed by the Lok Sabha on 22nd
July, 2019. It was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 25th July, 2019 and it came into
force on 24th October, 2019.
The RTI Amendment act, 2019 which has amended the RTI Act, 2005 has changed the
tenure and salaries of information commissioners.
It has altered Section 13 and Section 16 of the RTI Act, 2005 which deals with
the Tenure, Salary and Terms of office and conditions of service of Central
Chief Information Commission and other Information Commissioners and of the
State Chief Information Commissioner and other Information Commissioners.
Changes Brought Under The RTI Act, 2005
||RTI Act, 2005
|| RTI Amendment Act, 2019
|TERM OF OFFICE
||The term of office of Central Chief Information
commissioner and Information Commissioners was for 5 years or until the age
of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
The term of office of State Chief Information commissioner and Information
Commissioners was for 5 years or until the age of 65 years, whichever is
|The new Amendment states that the appointment for
term of office will be prescribed by the Central government or until 65
years of age, whichever is earlier.
|SALARY & ALLOWANCES
||The Central Chief information commissioner will
get allowances and salary same as of the Chief election commissioner and the
other information commissioner will get salary and allowances same as of the
The State Chief information commissioner will get allowances and salary same
as of an Election commissioner and the other information commissioner will
get salary and allowances same as of the Secretary of the State Government.
|The New Amendment states that that the salary,
allowances and other terms and conditions will be prescribed by the central
||It provided that at the time of appointment, the
Central information commissioner or other information commissioner receives
any pension or retirement benefits for previous government jobs, that amount
will have to be get deducted from the salary.
It provided that at the time of appointment, the State information
commissioner or other information commissioner receives any pension or
retirement benefits for previous government jobs, that amount will have to
be get deducted from the salary.
|This Provision Was Removed From The Act.
The Indian Constitution has not included the Right to Information, but it comes
under the Freedom of Speech and Expression. In the case of State of U. P. v. Raj
, the Supreme Court held that the Right to Information is an integral
part of the Freedom of Speech and Expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a)
of the Indian Constitution. Without this, a constructive discourse cannot
prosper and a healthy democratic cannot be set up.
It was held in the case of Anjali Bharadwaj V. Union of India
, that Knowledge
and information are considered to be an essential prerequisite for enjoying the
Right of Freedom of Expression and Right of Freedom of life and personal
liberty. Therefore, the Right To Information is considered to be fundamental
right, being an essential facet of Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Indian
In the case of Bennett Coleman V. Union of India
, it was held that Right to Know
which is a part of Right to Speech and Expression, forms a bedrock forms the
bedrock upon which the Right to Information rests. Every citizen has the
fundamental right to access information and the state has to protect the
fundamental rights of the citizens and grant them the opportunities provided
under the right.
Thus, the above judgments prove that the Right To Information is a fundamental
right available to all Indian citizens.
However, after the Right To Amendment Act, 2019 has been passed it has been
criticized in many judgements. In the case of Chief Information Commissioner vs
High Court Of Gujarat 2020, the Hon'ble Supreme Court had narrowed down the
scope of the RTI Act even further as it laid down that the High Court rules
which digress from the RTI Act is not inconsistent with the law if they have a
provision to furnish information.
Comparative And Critical Analysis
The Right To Information Amendment Act, 2019 has given full authority to the
Central Government which violates the Federal Structure of the Act. This
amendment has compromised the independence of the Information Commission to a
great extent. The Government has not considered the benefit of the citizens
before bringing an amendment to the act.
Violation Of Federal Structure Of The Act
The Amendment act has given considerable powers to the central government of the
delegated legislation. It has provided the Central Government with the rule
making powers to set up the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms and
conditions of the Information Commissioners. The amendment Act has altered
Sections 13(1) and (2) of the RTI Act, 2005 and which now prescribes that the
central government will determine the tenure of the Central Information
Commissioners instead of the fixed tenure of 5 years.
It has also altered
Sections 16(1) and (2) of the RTI Act, 2005 and which now prescribes the tenure
of the State Information Commissioners will be prescribed by the Central
Government instead of fixed tenure of 5 years. The Amendment Act has authorized
the Central government to determine the salaries, allowances and terms of
service of the Election Commissioners.
The fixing of tenure, salaries, allowances, and other conditions of services of
Information Commissioners are considered to be a legislative function. The
delegation of such legislative function to the Central government amounts to the
excessive delegation. The legislature should not have given the authority to the
executive to delegate the law-making functions of the legislature.
power to the executive has violation of the right to equality guaranteed under
Article 14 of the Indian Constitution and has violation the any rights
guaranteed under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. The Amendment Act by
empowering the Central Government has defeated the purpose of the federal scheme
of the RTI Act.
Independence Of The Information Commission
The New Amendment Act brought by the Central Government has attacked the
independence of the Information Commission which was responsible for ensuring
that people properly exercise their Right to Information. Information
Commissions which was considered to be the final adjudicatory body used to hold
a very significant position in the administrative matters.
The amendment has
disfigured the autonomy of the Information Commissioners who is responsible for
passing the important orders which used to provide instructions to the
Government to spread information about the various scams and corruption
activities taking place in the country.
It has affected the Information Commission by taking away the authority of
deciding the salary and tenure of these authorities. The Amendment by reducing
the status of Chief information commissioner from status equivalent of that
election commissioner or of the judge of Supreme Court, has made them work as
government bureaucrats who are functioning under the higher authorities.
the Information commissioners who had the power to protect the rights of the
citizens to have access to the public records without fear of officers, has now
been affected and the Information Commission is no longer powerful in their
approach and administrative matters.
Ignored The Opinion Of The Public
The Government has acted against the Legislative Consultation Policy as it has
acted in secrecy and in violation the policy by not consulting and disclosing
the amendment to be brought forward in the Act. The content of the amendment
bill were not known by MPs, citizens and the media till the bill was circulated
to members of the Lok Sabha on the eve of its introduction. The Government had
introduced the bill without consulting the citizens and the Information
Thus, Thus, the Government has infringed the Legislative Policy
which stated that every scrutiny must happen before the public and must take
place before the final drafting of the bill. Thus the Central Government has
abused its power and have ignored and not considered the opinion of the public
while introducing such bill in the Parliament.
Conclusion And Suggestions
To conclude, the Right To Information Amendment Act, 2019 has negatively
impacted on the autonomy and independence of the Information Commissions. It has
reduced the status of the Chief Information Commissioners and other Information
Commissioners from that of an Election Commissioner to a government bureaucrat
who is left at the disposal of the Central Government Ministers.
has lead to a sad regression for democracy. It has violated the fundamental
right of the citizens by legislating essential functions to the Central
Government and acting against the Legislative Policy as the power which is
entrusted to the central Government is unreasonable and arbitrary and it amounts
to the excessive delegation.
Thus, the new amendment has changed the basic
feature of the RTI Act, by taking away the authority, independence and autonomy
of the Information Commissioners has made them their puppets and have butchered
the soul of the RTI Act. In my opinion, the Judiciary must declare the Right To
Information Amendment Act, 2019 as unconstitutional and void.
The recommendations or solutions which can be provided are:
- The independence of the Information Commission must be restored which can be done by declaring the RTI Amendment Act, 2019 null and void or by challenging it through the process of judicial review.
- The power of the Central Government to fix the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms and conditions must be given back to the Information commission at the Centre and State Level. This will bring back the autonomy and power of the Information Commission.
- The status of the Information Commissioners must be equated with that of the Election Commissioners as decided before the Amendment Act as this would ensure that they perform their functions without any fear and with certain statutory authority.
- The Government must consider the opinion of the citizens while deciding any policy or bringing an amendment to an act as this would help the government to win the confidence of the citizens at large.