RTI request to see RTI Amendment Bill denied

No transparency in appointment process, says petitioner.

Published - November 24, 2018 12:09 am IST - NEW DELHI

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Privacy security concept

The Centre has denied a Right to Information Request for a copy of the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2018, which had been notified for introduction in the monsoon session of Parliament.

The Bill sought to give the Centre power to set the tenure and salaries of State and Central Information Commissioners. Critics worry this could threaten the independence of Commissioners. An RTI request for details on the applicants and search committee set up to fill the vacancies on the Central Information Commission (CIC) has also been denied. The CIC is the final appellate authority for all Central public authorities. By December 1, there will be eight vacancies in the 11-member Commission.

In an affidavit filed in an ongoing Supreme Court case regarding the appointment of Information Commissioners, the Centre admitted that it has held up appointments due to its effort to first amend the law.

In its rejoinder, to be filed on Monday, the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), plans to argue that this rationale does not provide “a legal ground for not filling vacancies in the Central Information Commission” as the existing Act already provides sufficient details on salaries and tenure.

In May 2018, NCPRI co-convener Anjali Bhardwaj filed an RTI request for a copy of the Bill and was denied on the grounds that the matter was still under consideration and had not reached finality. “We put in another request, it was denied on October 24. The same reason was offered for denial.” “We are seeing a complete lack of transparency in the appointment process for the top transparency watchdog,” Ms. Bhardwaj said.

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