In a massive development, in an order passed by Delhi High court on Tuesday, Justice Prathiba M. Singh observed that whenever information is sought under the 'Right To Information Act, 2005', the disclosure of the applicant's interest would be necessary. The single-judge bench observed this while hearing a plea seeking information to appointments made for the Multi-tasking Staff of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The RTI was recently amended by the Centre in 2019 - allowing the government to set the salaries and service conditions of Information Commissioners, which faced massive flak by Opposition and RTI activists.
"This Court is of the opinion that whenever information is sought under the RTI Act, disclosure of an interest in the information sought would be necessary to establish the bonafides of the applicant," read the order. Reports state that the court rejected the petition after it found out that the applicant's daughter was also an applicant for the same position referred in the subject of the RTI application. The court imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on the petitioner and said, " non-disclosure of this fact clearly points to some ulterior motive”.
In contrast, Section 6(2) of the RTI Act 2005 states that “an applicant making a request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him”, protecting the applicant's reasons. This order by the high court has been questioned by RTI activists, alleging that this will 'discourage people from using RTI Act'.
The RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed by the Parliament in July 2019. According to PRS, the Bill allows the Centre to prescribe the term of office, salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions of service of chief information commissioner and the information commissioners. Earlier, under the RTI Act, 2005, the term of the office of the chief information commissioner and the information commissioners was fixed at five years. However, the new amendment act suggests that the government will not notify the term of the office at any period of time. Several activists have criticised the bill saying that it will affect RTI's independence and neutrality.
The Right to Information Act has empowered Indian citizens to seek information from Public Authorities since 2005. A Transparency International India (TII) report in 2019, states that more than 3.02 Crore RTI applications have been filed so far. While Chhatisgarh is the only state which has published the annual reports from 2005 to 2018, Uttar Pradesh has failed to publish any annual report since the inception of the law, states TII.