Activists cry foul as govt. notifies RTI rules

‘Information Commissions will function like caged parrots’

October 26, 2019 07:12 am | Updated 07:12 am IST - NEW DELHI

Activists on Friday decried new rules under the Right to Information Act that have reduced the tenure of Information Commissioners from five years to three, saying the changes would affect their independence. The government had notified the rules on Thursday.

The Right to Information (Term of Office, Salaries, Allowances and Other Terms and Conditions of Service of Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commissioners in the Central Information Commission, State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioners in the State Information Commission) Rules, 2019 notified by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions set the tenure of Information Commissioners at three years and gave the government the discretion to decide on “conditions of service” for which no express provisions are made in the rules.

The Chief Information Commissioner’s salary has been fixed at ₹2.5 lakh and an Information Commissioner’s at ₹2.25 lakh.

‘Violation of procedures’

Reacting to the notification, activist Anjali Bharadwaj of the Satark Nagrik Sangathan said the government had amended the RTI Act in July and had not issued the prescribed rules for nearly three months after the amendment received the President’s assent on August 1. She said the rules had been drafted and promulgated in a “completely surreptitious manner in flagrant violation” of the procedures laid down in the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy of 2014.

“The policy requires all draft rules to be placed in the public domain for comments/suggestions of people. The draft was not available in the public domain and no consultations were held with members of the public,” the citizens’ group said in a statement.

Among new rules, the government has been given the “power to relax” their provisions, which raised “serious concerns that the government could potentially invoke these powers to determine different tenures for different Commissioners at the time of appointment”, she said.

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