NEED TO FOCUS  

  • Government proposal to amend RTI Act 2005
  • Opposition from civil rights activists against the bill.
  • Rising vacancies in Information Commission in center as well as states.

RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT 2005

  • Allows Indiana citizen to seek information from any other authority in the country on payment of Rs.10.
  • Welcomed by citizens as it gives a chance for them to have a check on the functions of government making them accountable.

INDEPENDENCE OF INFORMATION COMMISSION

  • Appointment – by president on recommendation of a committee consisting of Prime minister, leader of opposition and a union cabinet minister nominated by PM .In states, appointed by governor on recommendation of a committee consisting of Chief Minister, leader of opposition and a state cabinet minister nominated by CM.
  • Tenure – Chief information commissioner and information commissioners of both center and state hold office for 5 years or until he attain the age of 65 year .And is not eligible for reappointment.
  • Service conditions – The salary, allowance and other service conditions of the chief information commissioner are similar to those of Chief election commissioner .And that of the information commissioner are similar to those of election commissioner.

In the same way, in state, salary, allowance and other service conditions of the state chief information commissioner are similar to that of an election commissioner. And that of state information commissioner are similar to that of chief secretary of state government.

  • Removal – only by President in the center and by governor in the state.

PROPOSED AMENDMENTS

  • Section 13(5) - salary allowances and other terms and conditions of service of chief information commission and information commissioner shall be same as that of chief election commissioner and election commissioner respectively.
  • Section 16(5) – Salaries, allowances and conditions of state chief information commissioner and state information commissioner shall be same as that of election commissioner and the chief secretary to the state government respectively.
  • Chief information commissioner and information commissioner of both center and state will hold office for such a term prescribed by central government instead of 5 year.
  • Will not reduce the term once the appointment is made.

REASON STATED BY GOVERNMENT

  • Election Commission enforces right under Article 324 (1) and is a constitutional body.
  • Information Commission enforces fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (a) is a statutory body.
  • As they have different functions their and service condition must be rationalized.
  • Argues that, this legislation will correct the anomaly in the original Right to Information act 2005, which placed Information Commission on par with Election Commission.

IMPACTS OF AMENDMENT

  • Dilute the Right to Information act 2005
  • Destroy autonomy and independence of Information Commission making it subservient to government.
  • Derail the fight against corruption.
  • Destroy the legislation of transparency as it didn’t consult state government or right activists before the bill was readied.
  • Do away the parity given to Information Commission with Election Commission.
  • Raise the issue of federalism
  • Making a law on a subject of access to records under the control of states.
  • Intrusion into the sovereign authority of states with regard to state information commission.

WAY FORWARD

  • Bring the bill with proper consultation with states and right activists.
  • Ensure functioning of the body first by filling up the rising vacancies .
  • Convert Information Commission to a constitutional body to make it par with Election Commission.