In July this year, the Union government proposed an amendment to the RTI Act which would be listed in the Monsoon session of Parliament. The government also proposed changes to three sections of the RTI Act, which are related to ranks, salaries, allowances and tenure of the Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners of the Centre and states.
The proposed amendments say that the tenure, rank and perks of Central and State Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners will be decided by the central government. The proposal is to amend Sections 13, 16 and 27. While Section 13(1) and Section 13(2) are related to tenure of Chief Information Commissioner and Central Information Commissioners and say that it will be five years or up to the age of 65, the proposed bill says that their tenure will be “for such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government”.
Professor Sridhar Acharyulu, Information Commissioner of India, was in Pune to deliver a lecture on the topic ‘How RTI empowers democracy and transparency’ at a programme organised by the NGO Moneylife Foundation and Pune Union of Working Journalists at the Patrakar Bhavan on Saturday. During his interaction, he expressed his staunch opposition to the proposed changes in the RTI Act.
He further accused the Union government of trying to interfere with the independence of the central information commission (CIC) by proposing amendments to the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
As reported by HT Pune, Professor Sridhar hit out at the Union government, saying,
“The amendments proposed by the central government in the RTI Act, verily mitigate the power of the commission. By amending the existing act, the government is trying to reduce the status and the power of the central information commission.”
He added, “In the bureaucratic hierarchy if the CIC commissioner is below the secretary, he cannot pass the order to provide information sought through an RTI. These changes will in a sense enervate the power of the commission. Central government has no authority to make any changes in this regard and what they have proposed is absolutely wrong.”
Acharyulu further expressed his astonishment over the Supreme Court asking the Centre to submit details of the decision-making process of the Rafale deal.
He said, “I am surprised that now the Supreme Court has asked the government for the information regarding the decision-making process of the Rafale deal. Technical details of the deal are not important. Besides, why should the SC even ask for this information in the first place,” said Acharyulu.
Giving information is a symbol of good governance, however, when the government does not want to give information, it uses all the possible clauses to avoid the situation and refuses to give the information eventually, he added, referring to the Rafale deal.
Acknowledging the tireless work of many RTI activists across the country, Prof Acharyulu said that they study the issue so deeply that they have more knowledge about it than does a government officer of that public authority who should be the most equipped with all the information. Giving an example he said,
“I know of an RTI activist in Delhi who is so thorough in the knowledge of the transport department that relevant government officers bank on him for any information that they may not have.’’
Central Information Commission (CIC)
The CIC, set up under the RTI Act, is the authorised body, established in 2005, under the government of India, to act upon complaints from those individuals who have not been able to submit information requests to a central public information officer or state public information officer due to either the officer not having been appointed, or because the respective central assistant public information officer or state assistant public information officer refused to receive the application for information under the RTI Act.
With inputs from Hindustan Times