A law that gave citizens right to question those in power — the Right To Information (RTI) Act — completed 10 years on Monday with the Congress accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of trying to kill the law amid a call by activists to ensure more transparency in the government functioning.
The RTI law came into force on October 12, 2005, six months after it was enacted. And the decade long journey has witnessed people’s participation increasing from just a few lakh RTI applications in the first year to over 10 crore in 2014. The law was also a reason for rise of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal who started as an RTI activist in early 2000 when Delhi had its own version of the RTI law.
The journey had its own tremors with the UPA government, which enacted it, trying to dilute it by first saying that the file notings were not covered under the law and then trying to impose a word restriction on the RTI application. However, it was not able to do so because of stiff resistance by RTI activists led by then National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy.
The years also witnessed death of around 40 activists and assault on 400 information seekers for trying to expose corruption. “The RTI had been the biggest tool in the hands of people to expose corruption and those in power just don’t like the law,” Roy recently said.
The 10th anniversary of the RTI law to be celebrated by the Central Information Commission (CIC) on October 16 will not be addressed either by the President or the Prime Minister. Earlier, the CIC annual convention used to take place on October 12.
The change in dates invited sharp reaction from the Congress which said the dates were changed to enable the PM to attend the event. “In gross disregard of the spirit behind the RTI Act and its enabling nature — something that Narendra Modi blatantly did as CM of Gujarat — the Prime Minister chose to first shift the RTI Day to October 16, because of his pre occupation with rallies in Bihar and finally decided to skip even the postponed event,” party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.