Move to amend RTI Act began two years ago: Centre to SC

(This article was initially published in the Economic Times on 12/09/2018.)
NEW DELHI: The government had initiated the debatable move to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act two years ago, it has published in line with a pointed query by the Supreme Court on why it had not made appointments regardless of advertising for filling up vacancies in 2016.

Opposition events and RTI activists have been taken by surprise when the government listed the RTI Act amendment Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament without protecting any consultations. However, with the government’s reply to the apex courtroom it has now emerged that the government had kept all appointments to the Central Information Commission (CIC) in abeyance because it sought after to push the amendments first.

In its affidavit, the government mentioned, “It is submitted that the Government of India had issued advertisement dated 02.09.2016 in the leading newspapers (two each and every English and Hindi) and likewise uploaded at the DoPT’s (Department of Personnel and Training’s) website online inviting packages for filling up of posts of information commissioners. A process for amendment of the Right to Information Act 2005 was additionally initiated to incorporate specific/ explicit enabling provisions for determining the time period of administrative center, salaries and allowances payable to and different terms and stipulations of provider of the executive data commissioner and the tips commissioners of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and leader state data commissioners and state data commissioners. The aforesaid selection process was not pursued pending the result of the method for amendment of the Act.”

The Supreme Court is hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by RTI activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Amrita Johri and Lokesh Batra looking for judicial intervention to straighten out appointment process in data commissions. At present, there are 4 vacancies in CIC, with the first emptiness happening 18 months ago in December 2016. Two additional information commissioners, including leader RK Mathur, will retire in November. However, no appointments had been made.

After the PIL was filed in Supreme Court and hearings began happening, the government called for packages as soon as again thru advertisements on July 27, 2018. However, the advertisement didn't point out what number of posts could be filled and what the tenure of the commissioners could be. In its affidavit, the government has now clarified that it intends to fill best 4 posts and not the vacancies bobbing up later in November. “Presently there are 4 vacant posts of information commissioners in CIC which are below the purview of the advertisement for now. Suitable decision, in respect of the vacancies more likely to arise in the future in CIC, could be taken therefore consistent with the requirement/exigencies on the time,” the affidavit mentioned.

The government’s stand has sparked worry among RTI activists. Bhardwaj instructed ET, “For the final 4 years, we have now had to take the judicial path each and every time any emptiness arose in CIC. The government has submitted that it wants to fill best 4 vacancies and not the two that may arise in less than two months. This is being concerned as it seems that the government is operating towards a three or fourmember commission. This would overburden CIC and step by step mean the loss of life of RTI.”

Move to amend RTI Act began two years ago: Centre to SC Move to amend RTI Act began two years ago: Centre to SC Reviewed by kailash soni on September 12, 2018 Rating: 5
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