It is clear that with the power to fix the tenure, status and salary of information commissioners both at the Centre and in the states vested in the Union government, the latter can control the former and influence its decisions. By limiting the freedom and autonomy of information commissioners, the amendments undermine the Right to Information (RTI) Act and deprive people of a powerful tool for empowerment. Activists lament that the RTI Act is now as good as dead with the independence of information commissioners lost. While constitutional authorities and statutory functionaries do not have to think about whether their decisions are to the liking of the powers that be, the information commissioners do not have such a “luxury”. They will now think twice before sharing information inconvenient to powerful interests.
The contentious amendments dilute the common citizens’ right to information and erode transparency and accountability, two basic requirements of a democratic set-up. Denial of information to citizens is the characteristic of a totalitarian state and not a participatory democracy. Sadly, there was not enough public pressure on the government to refrain from killing the spirit of the original law.
G David Milton, Maruthancode
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