The Central Government acted in a hasty manner by introducing a Bill to amend the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) in the Lok Sabha on 12 August, 2013.
*Excludes all political parties from the purview of the RTI Act
*Invalidates the June 2013 order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) which declared six national political parties as ‘public authorities’ under the RTI Act.
All political parties who opposed the CIC’s order are most likely to vote in favour of the Bill. Essentially, they are all collaborating to refuse direct queries from the people of India aimed at their functioning.
The Government, in 2009, had assured the Parliament that the RTI Act would NOT be amended without proper debate and consultation with the people of India. And yet, today, when their own interests are at stake, the Government, with the backing of political parties, is defaulting on its promise to Parliament. And also to the People.
The RTI Act has given us citizens never-before-seen powers to demand answers from our government and participate in governance. We, the People, have tried a variety of ways to engage with our MPs in an effort to make our voices heard with regards to these amendments. We have called them, emailed them and even tried to meet them in person to express our opinions but were stonewalled each time. In the absence of any meaningful engagement with our law-makers, who impose arbitrary law-making practices on us citizens, our only option is to petition the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The Speaker has the power to refer the amendment Bill to a Standing Committee/Select Committee before putting it to vote.
We encourage you to sign this petition addressed to the Honorable Speaker urging her to send the RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2013 to a Standing Committee/Select Committee and facilitate widespread public consultation on it.
LET US DEFEND OUR RIGHT TO KNOW!
This petition is supported by:
Commonwealth Human Rights Intitiative (CHRI), National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), Satark Nagrik Sangathan, and all the RTI Call-a-Thon Volunteers.
We, the people of India, urge you to use your powers and influence as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to prevent any Bill seeking to amend the Right to Information Act (RTI Act), that has been tabled in the house on the 12th August 2013, from being put to vote in a hasty manner. Instead, we urge you to refer such an amendment Bill to a Standing Committee or a Select committee of the House to facilitate widespread public consultation on the issue. This will be in keeping with the Central Government’s assurance to the Parliament in 2009 that the RTI Act would not be amended without public consultation.
The RTI Act is the crystallization of the collective aspirations of the people of India to open up closed structures of governance and bring in transparency in the working of all public authorities. As this Act embeds citizen’s Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, Article 13 of the Constitution prohibits Parliament from passing any law that abridges a fundamental right. Merely a debate on the amendment proposal in a plenary session, before the House votes, is not sufficient to inform the House of the diversity of views and opinions among ordinary citizens regarding the desirability of excluding political parties from the ambit of the RTI Act.
India’s RTI Act is ranked second best in the world because it contains progressive provisions, which were crafted on the basis of widespread public consultations and match international best practice standards. If the Government’s amendment proposal is referred to a Standing Committee or a House Committee, a large number of citizens and organizations would be able to voice their opinion about the need for greater transparency in the working of political parties. The House ought not to deprive itself of the benefit of these views before it votes on the amendment proposal.
Once again we urge you to exercise your powers and refer any proposal to amend the RTI Act that may be tabled in the Lok Sabha to a Standing Committee or a Select Committee of the House to enable widespread public consultation.