In my opinion, the Right To Information Act (Amendment) Bill emboldens the Indian democracy. It is an absurd proposition which is being spread out in the public domain. The basic question which I ask to the people opposing this is, how can a lawfully passed act by the temple of democracy be an infringement of Indian democracy?
Parliament is the house which has the power to legislate on issues. Under the Concurrent List, the amendment of an act is within the domain of parliament and thus, we cannot say that the amendment was an undemocratic move by parliament.
A vital question to ponder regarding the present issue is: what is really a democracy? It is described as a ‘golden triangle of three Ds – discussion, debate and dissent. Before passing the amendment, the parliament of India has done all three of them, then how can this be an infringement of democracy? Rather it is an emboldening action which is strengthening the roots of democracy; the edifice of Indian democracy stands on discussion, debate and dissent. It is an issue of pride for the largest democracy of the world that the procedure established by law allows separate legislature from the executive and judiciary, it provides them their areas of operation but also allows them to have a system of checks and balances among them so that no arbitrary powers can be exercised by any single one.
The Right To Information Amendment has no relation in curbing the freedom of speech and expression, which was expounded in the landmark case of State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain in 1975 which provided the Right To Know under Article 19(A). It is not against the fundamental right of free speech and expression or the basic structure of the constitution and therefore it is not an insult to parliament and judiciary.
Only the parliament has the right to legislate for its people. A democratically elected house which is performing its constitutional obligation of amending an act can never be undemocratic. The people who are raising an eye over it are blatantly disregarding the public mandate and legislative functions of parliament.
This amendment doesn’t hamper anyone’s right to information at all. The right is there, was there and shall be there under the sun. With the advancement of technology, the right to information is available online just few clicks away from your phone.
This amendment is just an enabling bill which is not encroaching on the powers of the Central Information Commission. It seeks to amend Section 27 which shall now provide rule-making power and Section 13 and 16 which deal with term of office and salaries of State Information Commissioners and Chief Information Commissioner.
The people who believe it to be an encroachment on the autonomy of this body, I would like to remove their delusion as the matter of autonomy which is explicitly provided under Section 12(4), is left untouched. How can one say it’s not independent?
The Supreme Court in 2013’s Rajeev Garg v. Union of India opined for uniformity in services and specially with reference to this body, and the current amendment upholds this mandate. As far as the contention regarding disturbing checks and balances is concerned, it is pivotal to note that the Constitution of India doesn’t prescribe such powers to the Central Information Commission. The Constitution of India provides checks and balances between the three organs of the state only – the judiciary legislature and executive – so from where does the CIC come into the picture?
A great lacunae in the pre-amendment bill was that there were no rules attached to the act. How is it possible that you make an act, but don’t grant the power to formulate rules? This is against the basic notion of delegated legislation in administrative law. Rules shall only be formulated by executives who are professionals and know the knighty gritty of laws dealing with their fields.
The Chief Information Commissioner has equal footing to the Chief Justice of India but their decisions can be impugned under the jurisdiction of any High Court. How can one justify such disparity in position and powers? Thus, it was vital to remove disparities and bring a uniformity in powers and position.
The flaw which needs to be corrected in this law is that it provides equal status to the CIC with respect to constitutional post of a SC Judge and the CEC, but the CIC itself is not a constitutional post, it’s merely a legislative one. According to me, to amend such a transgression of Constitution, it is pivotal to amend it according to law.
At last I would like to state that change is the only constant. Even water stinks if it doesn’t move. Evolution is the only way forward, then why is such a change being opposed? Why can’t we correct mistakes? Is it wrong to ratify the lacunae of any law? How strange that something that should be welcomed and applauded is being questioned and opposed.