“No record available,” commission says in response to RTI application in this regard
The Central Information Commission was not consulted regarding the Right to Information Amendment Act, 2019 or the Rules of the Act, an RTI application shows.
In July, when asked why the government had not held any public consultation on the amendments, the Centre had told the Rajya Sabha that the changes in the Act were “between the Government and the officers, not the public.” However, the CIC response now shows that the affected Commissioners were not consulted either. Several State Information Commissioners told The Hindu that they had not been consulted.
The amendments to the transparency legislation were enacted in July, and gave the Centre the power to determine the tenure, salary and perks of the State and Central Information Commissioners. The Commissions are the final courts of appeal under the RTI Act. The Rules to the RTI Amendment Act were notified in October, and reduced the tenure of the Commissioners from five to three years, while also downgrading their status and allowances. RTI users and activists have warned that this move will dilute the autonomy and efficacy of the Commissions.
During the debate on the RTI Amendments Bill in the Rajya Sabha on July 25, Samajwadi Party MP Javed Ali Khan had asked why there had been “no consultation with intellectuals, the public representatives and the RTI activists.”
In response, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions said the understanding was that the public was not affected by the autonomy or independence of the RTI per se. “It is only dealing with the tenure, terms and conditions of the functionaries… That is our understanding, and that is why we did not put it in the public forum… At this moment, we are dealing with certain functionaries, certain points, kuch adhikariyon ke kitne vetan rahe, kitne nahin rahe [how much salary to pay certain officers]. It is between the government and the officers, not the public. That is our response.”
However, the CIC’s responses to two RTI queries filed by activist Anjali Bhardwaj at the end of October show that the affected officers were not consulted. Asked to provide a copy of the letter or note by which the comments of the CIC were sought on the proposal to amend the RTI Act, the Commission responded that “No record for the information is available.” Asked to provide a copy of the letter or note whereby the CIC’s comments were sought on the Rules, the Commission responded that “No comments were sought and provided by CIC.”
Several State Information Commissioners, who did not wish to be named, including the Chief of a State Information Commission, confirmed to The Hindu that they had not been consulted on the Act or Rules.
Source: The Hindu