Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2019

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

Features of the Bill

  • The bill seeks to overhaul the terms and conditions of service of the CIC and Information Commissioners at the centre and in states.
  • The RTI act 2005 provided that the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs) will have an office term of five years. The amendment bill empowers the central government to notify the term of office for the CIC and the ICs.
  • The RTI amendment bill provides that the salaries, allowances, and other terms and conditions of service of the central and state CIC and ICs will be determined by the central government.
  • The 2005 act provided that at the time of the appointment of the CIC and ICs (at the central and state level), if they are receiving a pension or any other retirement benefits for previous government service, their salaries will be reduced by an amount equal to the pension. The bill deletes this provision.

Objective for Introduction of the Bill

The statement of the object of the bill states that “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”.

While introducing the bill the government stated that “Most Probably, the then government of the day, in a hurry to pass the RTI Act, 2005, overlooked a lot of things. The Central Information Commissioner has been given the status of a Supreme Court judge but his judgments can be challenged in the High Courts. How can that exist? Besides, the RTI Act did not give the government rule-making powers. We are merely correcting these through the amendment.”

Criticism against the Bill

The amendments would result in the government deciding the terms of appointment, salaries and tenures of the Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners on a case-to-case basis. This will take away the independence of the RTI authorities. The opposition parties fear that the amendments would virtually lead to the elimination of Right to Information.

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