Bill passed in Lok Sabha on 22nd July and in Rajya Sabha on 26 July.
The bill seeks to amend provision relating to the term and quantum of salary of the Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners (Central and State level).
Earlier the term of CIC and ICs were fixed for 5 years and salaries were to be equivalent to that of the Chief Election Commissioners and Election Commissioner, so that the Information Commission may work independently without any control and intervention of the government but now the amendment gives the Central Government full control over the term and salary of the commissioner making the service dependable on the pleasure of the government.
Speaking on the occasion (in Rajya Sabha on 26th of July 2019 as published on PIB), Dr Jitendra Singh said that there is no motivation to curtail the independence of the RTI Act. There is no interference as far as the independence of the Act is concerned, the Minister assured. Speaking about the fixation of the tenure of Information Commissioners, he clarified that it is never mentioned in the amendment that the Government will change it after every two years, as alleged by the Opposition. The Government will not have unbridled powers to amend the rules, he emphasised. The Minister said that the Government is open to the suggestions and the amendment is being done with a clean intention. On the issue of referring it to the Select Committee of the House, the Minister said that it is the prerogative of the members and it should be determined on the basis of the merit of the Bill.
The Minister said that the Government has always focused on the principle of ‘maximum governance, minimum government’. He mentioned about various such initiatives of the Government such as self attestation, abolition of interviews etc. The essence of these initiatives is aimed at accountability and citizen-centric approach of the Government. The Minister also said that ‘Mobile App’ was brought by the Government to enable the citizens to file RTI any time. He added that in the last five years, most of the information is available in the public domain.
Speaking about the objective of bringing this amendment, the Minister said that CIC is a statutory body and Election Commission is a Constitutional body. Therefore, the mandate of Election Commission of India and Central and State Information Commissions are different and needed to be determined accordingly. He clarified that this amendment has been brought in without any motivation. This will help in streamlining the RTI, he added. He assured that this will help to strengthen the RTI Act.”
The Bill was not referred to a Select Committee, with 117 members voting against referring the bill to a select committee, and 75 members voting for it.
What is your take on this amendment as a member of the legal fraternity?