On 19 July 2019, the Ministry of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions proposed the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha. The bill seeks to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
Important characteristics of the Bill include :
Term of Information Commissioners (ICs)
Under Right to Information Amendment Act, 2019, Information Commissioners (ICs) and Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) shall be appointed at the state and national level to improve the provisions of the Act. The Act clears out that the CIC and other ICs will hold office for a tenure of 5 years. The Bill drops this provision and defines that the central government will notify the term of office for the ICs and CIC.
Determination of salary
In accordance with this Act, the salary of the CIC and ICs (at the central level) will be equal to the salary paid to the Chief Election Commissioners and Election Commissioner, respectively. Just like this, the salary of the CIC and ICs (at the state level) will be equal to the salary paid to the Election Commissioners and the Chief Secretary to the state government, respectively.
The Act clarifies that at the time of the appointment of the CIC and ICs (at the union and state level), if they are receiving pension or any other retirement advantages for last government service, their salaries will be deducted by an amount equal to the pension
Previous government service includes:
corporation established under a state or union law,
the central government and state government
government company owned or regulated by the state or central government.
The Bill removes these provisions:
The Bill seeks to amend these provisions to state that the allowances, salaries, and other conditions and terms of service of the state and union CIC and ICs will be decided by the central government.
Opposition of the Right To Information (RTI) (amendment) bill
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill is a twin attack on the idea of federalism and accountability.
The Commission which is vested by law with authority, independence and status, will now function like a department of the Union government.
The current institutional architecture ensures that the RTI authorities function in an effective and independent manner, but post amendment the independence of institution is in threat
The amendments authorizes the Union government to unilaterally decide the allowances, salary, tenure and other terms of service..
Government justification of the proposed amendment bill
The mandate of the Central and State Information Commissions and Election Commission of India (ECI) are different. Hence, their service and status conditions are required to be rationalized accordingly.
The present RTI Act did not give the government rule-making powers, which the amendment proposes to correct.
Chief Information Commissioner has been given the status of a Supreme Court Judge, but his judgments can be challenged in the High Courts.
However, the Government has dispute to support Right To Information (amendment) bill, but Independent structures establish to track and regulate the government is vital to a democratic state committed to delivering constitutional guarantees and justice. If the division of power between government and institution is compromised and the independent institution becomes one of government department then this will attack the independence of institution and institution will change from the path which is supposed to follow to perform its duties. This will also vulnerable to the check and balance between different establishment or institutions of a democratic country. So, when power is concentrate, the freedom of expression is periled which can lead to the decline of democracy.