The Right to Information (RTI) activists boycotted the annual convention conducted by the Central Information Commission (CIC) on Friday and Saturday in Delhi after the government restricted the number of invites to just seven, citing security reasons.
The activists have been an important part of the annual convention hosted by the CIC where the Prime Minister or the President attends the inaugural session. But in an unusual action by the Commission, a large number of RTI activists haven’t been invited except for a few. Leading RTI activist Aruna Roy who strongly fought for the transparency law also boycotted the convention celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Act. The annual convention of the CIC discusses issues related to the implementation of the RTI Act across the country through question and counter-question sessions involving experts and commissioners. It has been taking place every year since 2006. This is the first time the activists are barred from taking part in the convention which was attended by Prime Minister Modi. The National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI) had also announced the boycott stating that the move was undemocratic. The NCPRI said that it was an attempt to curtail ‘the Right Information law and undermine its autonomy and effectiveness’. The government allegedly sent the Intelligence Bureau to the homes of the RTI activists across the country for verification. But even after that, they were not intimated about the invites on time. The move has never happened in the past and no security clearances were required ever. Many of them received emails denying their entry to the convention citing security reasons. The activists upset over such a treatment announced the boycott of the convention.
The people who pledged bolstering the Act are now restricting its power. The parliament had passed the Whistle Blowers Protection Act in 2011 which received the assent of the President in 2014. But the Modi government hasn’t been able to formulate laws required to implement it even after 16 months in power. The Lokpal Bill even though passed hasn’t been implemented. There has also been indefinite delay in the case of complaint-solution system even while there is no objection in the Rajya Sabha. The people have tasted the power of RTI law which mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information, since its inception in 2005. Every year around 45 lakh complaints and appeals from across the country are registered with the CIC. In the US, the number is below 35 lakh. The law was formed after strong demands and protests by the people, some of them losing their lives in the battle. But today the bureaucracy, politicians and the judiciary are trying to curtail its power. The move which is a threat to democracy and the rights of people would seize the freedom of power from the citizens. Therefore the people should be vigilant and intervene in the matter for protecting the law.