Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
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This Bill in no way compromises the independence of RTI Act


INVC NEWS 
New Delhi,  

The Government introduced the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha today. 

The Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Dr Jitendra Singh said that this Bill in no way compromises the independence of RTI Act as being alleged by some members. On the contrary, it is meant to further streamline and institutionalize the RTI Act of 2005 which was drafted by the then Government in haste and thus left several missing links. Further, the Information Commission is a statutory body and by linking it to the Election Commission and Supreme Court, which are Constitutional bodies, there is an anomaly which needs to be corrected.”

The MoS (PP) Dr Jitendra Singh sought a division on the introduction of the bill. While 224 members supported its introduction, 9 opposed it.

The Right to Information Act, 2005 was enacted to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority, the constitution of a Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

 Section 13 of the Act provides for the term of office and conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners. It provides, inter alia, that the Chief Information Commissioner and every Information Commissioner shall hold office for a term of five years or till they attain the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier, and shall not be eligible for reappointment. It further provides that the salaries and allowances and other terms and conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner, respectively. Similarly, section 16 of the Act provides for the term of office and conditions of service of the State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioners. It provides, inter alia, that the State Chief Information Commissioner and every State Information Commissioner shall hold office for a term of five years or till they attain the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier, and shall not be eligible for reappointment. It provides that the salaries and allowances and other terms and conditions of service of the State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioners shall be the same as that of the Election Commissioner and the Chief Secretary to the State Government, respectively.

The salaries and allowances and other terms and conditions of service of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioner are equal to a Judge of the Supreme Court, therefore, the Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commissioner and the State Chief Information Commissioner becomes equivalent to a Judge of the Supreme Court in terms of their salaries and allowances and other terms and conditions of service.

The functions being carried out by the Election Commission of India and the Central and State Information Commissions are totally different. The Election Commission is a constitutional body established by clause (1) of article 324 of the Constitution and is responsible for the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to Parliament and to the Legislature of every State and of elections to the offices of President and Vice-President held under the Constitution. On the other hand, the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions are statutory bodies established under the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005. Therefore, the mandate of Election Commission of India and Central and State Information Commissions are different. Hence, their status and service conditions need to be rationalised accordingly.

In view of the above, it is proposed to amend the Right to Information Act, 2005 so as to provide that the term of office of, and the salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions of service of, the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners and the State Chief Information Commissioner and the State Information Commissioners, shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government.

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