Why Kejriwal's opinion on RTI amendment act matters
New Delhi, July 22: Ramon Magsaysay Award winner for his contribution to right-to-information movement, Arvind Kejriwal, who is now the Delhi Chief Minister, has been vehementely opposing the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The bill which is now in Parliament proposes to amend the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Kejriwal is credited for activating right-to-information (RTI) movement at the grassroot level. For this contribution, he was conferred with the Ramon Magsaysay Award, considred as the Asia's equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Kejriwal's contribution to RTI activism is immense and in this sense he has a locus in the matter.
Kejriwal today yet again strongly opposed the Centre's move to amend the RTI Act, alleging that it will end the independence of central and states information commissions.
Kejriwal, who had actively worked for implementation of the Right to Information Act before coming into politics, said the decision to amend the RTI Act was a "bad move".
"Decision to amend the RTI Act is a bad move. It will end the independence of Central & States Information Commissions, which will be bad for RTI," Kejriwal tweeted.
The ammendment states that term of offices, salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions shall be "as prescribed by the Central Government". The move has been criticised by activists who said it will affect independence and neutrality of the transparency panel.
The main objection to the proposed bill is that the amendment seeks to give the Centre the power to set the tenure and salaries of state and central Information Commissioners. Critics of the bill dub the amendment as Centre's attempt to get a hold over the salaries, allowance and terms and conditions of service of the chief and other information commissioners in both the Central and State Information Commissions.
On Friday, the Centre introduced a bill in Lok Sabha to amend the RTI Act, seeking to give the government powers to fix salaries, tenures and other terms and conditions of employment of information commissioners. While tabling the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh had asserted it would lead to ease of delivery of RTI Act and described it as an enabling legislation for administration purposes.
However, transparency activists have slammed the government's move to amend the Act to take away statutory parity of Information Commissioners with Election Commissioners in terms of tenure and service conditions, saying it is an attack on the independence of the panel.
Arvind Kejrival joined the hands with Aruna Roy and various other social activists and campaigned for the Right to Information Act. This became the silent movement in other parts of the country.
It is wsidely believed that it was because of this movement that Delhi Right to Information Act was made in 2001. After the passing of this act, Parliament passed the RTI in the year 2005.
Till January 2000, Arvind Kejriwal was a joint commissioner at the income tax department. Kejriwal, an IIT Kharagpur graduate, took a break from job to devote himself to improving accountability in governance. Kejriwal's contribution to RTI activism is immense and in this sense he say on the matter is imoportant.