- Anjali Bhardwaj and Amrita Johri, RTI activists, emphasized on the reasons for amending RTI act.
2. The RTI act, 2005 hold public functionaries accountable.
3. Over the years, the act has been used by citizens to question the highest officers in the country.
4. However, the legislation has frequently faced criticisms from powerful vested interests. The latest one is proposed by the politician to amend it.
5. The amended act provides:
- The salaries, allowances and other terms of the service of the Chief of the Central Information Commission shall be the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner.
- The Central Information Commissioners and State Chief Commissioners will be on par with Election Commissioner.
- The Chief and other Election Commissioner are paid a salary equal to the salary of a judge of the SC.
- The amendment seeks to empower the Central government to decide the tenure, salaries, allowances and other terms of service of all Information Commissioners in the country.
6. Reasons for amendment:
- It contravenes with the pre-legislative consultation policy.
- It seeks to destroy the independence of Information Commissions.
- The RTI act fixes the tenure of information commissioner at five years and 65 years whichever is earlier.
- Treating Information Commissioner on par with functionaries of the Election Commission is not fair, as the latter is a constitutional body while Information Commissioner are statutory bodies.
7. Empowering the Central government to decide the tenure and salaries of Information Commissioners will undermine their independence.
8. The amendment Bill comes at a time when the apex court has issued notice to the government for failing to fill vacancies in the Commission.
9. Out of a total sanctioned strength of 11 Commissioners, there are currently four vacancies and four more are due to arise in 2018, including that of the chief.
10. Failure to make timely appointments is leading to huge backlogs of appeals and complaints resulting in inordinate delays in the Commission, which render the law meaningless for citizens.