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RTI Amendment Bill

The right to information is a fundamental right of the citizens of India under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian constitution. It is considered an implied fundamental right under as an aspect of freedom of speech and expression.

Citizens of the country are entitled to enforce this right by filing an application with the State Chief Information Commission to obtain any information concerning the administrative acts or decisions undertaken by the state.

This right is not absolute and is subjected to reasonable restrictions.

The RTI Amendment bill was introduced in 2019, seeking to amend the Right to Information Act of 2005. The minister of state presented it for personnel, public grievances and pensions.

Amendments proposed by the Bill

As per the RTI Act, 2005, the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs) are appointed at the national and state levels to enforce the provisions of the law.

The law provides that CICs and ICs appointed at the central and state levels serve in office for five years.

The bill of 2019 abolishes this provision and states that the central government will announce the terms of CIC and IC.

The RTI Act of 2005 provides that CIC and ICs at central level salaries are equal to salaries paid to the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commissioners, respectively. Similarly, the CIC and ICs (state level) salaries will be the same as that of the Election Commission and the Secretary-General of the State Government, respectively.

The bill seeks to amend these provisions so that the central government determines central and state CICs and ICs’ salaries, allowances, and other terms of use.

Salary deductions:

If, at the time of appointment of CICs and ICs at the central and state levels, they receive a pension or other retirement benefit for previous government services they were appointed on, their salary will be reduced by an amount of pension equivalent to retirement benefits.

The bill abolishes these above-mentioned provisions.

Effect of the RTI Amendment Bill on RTI Act 2005

The introduction of the RTI Amendment Bill 2019 affected the RTI Act 2005.

  • Previously, the RTI Act 2005 provided that central CIC and ICs and the state CIC and ICs would hold their respective offices for 5 years.

    Now, the Amendment Bill proposed to omit this provision and entitled the central government to decide on the terms of service of the central and state information commissioners.

  • Previously, the provision regarding the salary of the Central CIC and ICs and state CIC and ICs that it would be equivalent to the salary paid to the chief election commissioner and election commissioners at the central level and election commissioners and the chief secretary to the state government at the state level respectively.

    Now, the Amendment Bill of 2019 proposed that the Central Government will determine the matters regarding salary, allowances, terms and conditions of the service of the central and state CIC and ICs.

  • Previously, The RTI Act 2005 stated that if the CIC and ICs at both the central and state level are receiving pensions or any other retirement benefits for the government service they previously served their salaries will be deducted with an amount equal to the received pension, any other retirement benefit, etc. in the same sense.

Conclusion

The Right to information (amendment) bill, 2019 was accepted by the parliament and came with the Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019, which amended the provisions of the RTI Act 2005.

It somehow gave arbitrary powers to the central government to decide on the terms of service and terms and conditions of the office of the chief information commissioners and information commissioner, both at the central and state levels.

The central government is also entitled to decide on the salary and allowances of the CICs and ICs at the central and state levels. So, there’s a possibility that the CIC and ICs will work at the government’s discretion to please them by extending their terms of services or salary.

It brought the state chief information commissioner and information commissioners under the ambit of central government and states won’t have a say on it. It also acts as a shield to state-level information officers, making arbitrary decisions possible.

It also attacked the fundamental motive of the independent working of the commission. The bill will also raise the possibility of conflict between the central and state governments.

FAQ

Who will be the committee chairperson recommending the appointment of the state chief information commissioner and information commissioners?

The Chief Minister of the state as per section 15(3) of the Right to information act, 2005.

Which section containing the provision for the term of office and condition of service was amended by RTI amendment bill 2019?

Section 16.

Which provisions were amended after the introduction and acceptance of the RTI amendment bill, 2019, in parliament?

Section 13, 16 and 27 of the RTI Act, 2005.

What is the penalty for not furnishing the required information within the specified time or knowingly furnishing the incorrect information?

The penalty will be an amount of Rs 250/- daily until the application is received or information is furnished. This penalty levied daily should not extend to more than Rs 25000/-.

About Author

Ayush Ranjan Jha is a 4th-year law student of Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (VIPS), IP University, Delhi.

He is inquisitive towards Corporate law, International law & Constitutional law.

He is very keen on research work and got published a number of Research papers and articles related to legal topics during his previous academic years.

Currently, he is preparing for Judicial services examinations.

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Human Rights