The Government has introduced a RTI Amendment Bill proposing changes to the RTI Act, 2005.
- The Right To Information Amendment Bill, 2019 has been introduced by the government which gives it powers to set salaries and service conditions to the Information Commissioners (ICs).
- The amends are set to change Section 13 and 16 of the RTI Act, 2005.
- Section 13 of the 2005 act sets a tenure limit of 5 years or until the age of 65 whichever is earlier to the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners. The proposed amendment gives the central government the power to prescribe the tenure.
- The same section consists of details regarding payment of salaries, allowances, and other terms. The new amendment gives the power to the central government to allocate the same.
- Section 16 of the Act deals with the tenure and salary payments of the State-level Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners. Here too, the proposed amendments gives the Central Government the prescribing power.
Protests From Opposition
- In the original Act the tenures, salaries, allowances and other payments have been quantified and benchmarked.
- But with the amendments, the Central Government can now scrutinise and allocate the tenure and payments on a case-to-case basis. This might lead to appointing people who toes the line of the government of the day.
- It will erode the independence of the RTI authorities.
- On its part the government has stated that it is merely correcting the loopholes present in the RTI Act, 2005.
- For instance, the Chief Information Commissioner has been given the status of a Supreme Court Judge but his orders can be challenged in a High Court.
- Also, the original act did not give rule-making powers to the government and the proposed bill is set to change that.
Reasons Behind Original Provisions
- The then Parliamentary Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice had discussed in-depth the salaries of the CIC and ICs and set them to be equivalent to Additional Secretaries or Joint Secretaries and give them the status similar to Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner respectively.
The RTI Act
- The Act is one of Independent India’s most successful act that gave the ordinary citizens the power to question the government. The law is being used by both ordinary citizens and the media to get the required information, unearth corruption and act as a deterrent against arbitrary decisions of government servants.
Nuances of The Act
- All constitutional authorities, the executive, legislature and the Judiciary fall under the Act.
- Also included under the ambit of the Act are authorities or agencies that are owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government.
- A fee of Rs. 10/- along with the application has to be filed with the Public Information Officer.
- The concerned officer shall give the required information within 30 days of accepting the application.
The proposed amendments seems to be curtailing the independence of the CICs and ICs. This does not bode well for the citizens as the government has the power to control the office of the ICs.