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Changes to RTI Act do not ‘hamper’ Information Commissioners: Govt

Jairam Ramesh. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The government has said the amendments introduced in the Right to Information (RTI) Act are for “administrative” convenience and do not “hamper” the independent functioning of Information Commissioners.

The government was responding to a petition filed by parliamentarian Jairam Ramesh challenging the amendments made in 2019. Mr. Ramesh had said the amendments jeopardise the independent functioning of the Central Information Commissions and the State Information Commissions.

The Rules framed under the amendments concerning the conditions of service and tenure of the Information Commissioners statutorily dilute their functioning as independent bodies meant to ensure transparency in governance through the RTI Act. The Rules give the government “absolute power”, Mr. Ramesh had argued.

“The citizens' right to information, transparency and accountability are untouched by the Amendment Act... It does not affect the citizens' right to information or obligations of public authorities and public information offices,” the government said in an affidavit.

The apex court had, on February 22, criticised the government for not having filed a reply to Mr. Ramesh's petition for over a year.

In fact, the court had, in January 2020, asked the Centre to file its reply to Mr. Ramesh's plea that the amendments gave the government unparalleled powers to dictate the tenure, salaries and service conditions of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners according to its “whims and fancies”.

“The Modi government undermined the sanctity of the RTI Act in 2019 through amendments. Then when I challenged it in Supreme Court, the government failed to respond to the Court’s notice for more than a year! I hope that the government will take this matter seriously at least now,” Mr. Ramesh had tweeted shortly after the court made its displeasure known last month.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 2:45:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/changes-to-rti-act-do-not-hamper-information-commissioners-govt/article34023239.ece

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