Few things imperil representative democracy as gravely as irreverence for the mandate that sanctions it. ‘Transparency’ is a common phrase associated with a functioning democracy; opacity in Government functioning is accepted anathema. So how did the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, survive scrutiny? And why does it pose a threat to democracy?
The ‘right to know’ has a chequered history in the context of India, post-independence, and is not without its share of bloodshed, even in the recent past—a bleak indicator of the potency of the disclosure of information in an inherently imbalanced power dynamic. The Supreme Court had held that citizens have a “right to know” as early as 1975, and recognized the ‘right to information’ as a fundamental right implicit in the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1) (a).
However, a substantial push for an effective RTI regime is traced back to Devdoongri in Rajasthan and the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan (MKSS) in the 1990s, where peasants and landless workers in rural areas were often cheated of their complete wages, and were left remediless for lack of information to confront the administration with. Thereafter, hitherto isolated movements in various parts of the country transformed into one consolidated national movement and eventually culminated to give rise to The Right to Information Act, 2005.