An amendment to the Right To Information Act was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday even as the Opposition said it would dilute the transparency of the law.
NDTV reportedthat the Opposition has dubbed the bill ‘RTI Elimination Bill’ and wants to send it to a select committee for further scrutiny.
Even activists said it will affect independence and neutrality of the transparency panel.
The bill seeks to amend the Right to Information Act, 2005 so as to provide that the term of office of, and the salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions of service of, the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners and the State Chief Information Commissioner and the State Information Commissioners, “shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government.”
The proposed bill dated July 15 has been circulated among the members of Lok Sabha by Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh.
It states that term of offices, salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions shall be “as prescribed by the Central Government”.
In the present form Section 13 (5) of the Right to Information Act provides that the salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions of the service of the Chief Information Commissioner shall be the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner while that of an Information Commissioner shall be same as that of an Election Commissioner.
The amendment circulated by the Government states that the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners have salaries of a Supreme Court Judge which brings Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at par with the apex court judges.
“The functions being carried out by the Election Commission of India and the Central and State Information Commissions are totally different. The Election Commission of India is a Constitutional body...On the other hand Central Information Commission and State Information Commission are statutory bodies established under the Right to Information Act, 2005,” it said.
When it was circulated last year, the move had faced criticism from civil society members, activists and former Information Commissioners who had said that the move will take away independence of the Commissions, highest adjudicating bodies in the matter of the RTI Act. Finally it was not introduced in the Parliament.
According to the activists, the efficacy of the RTI Act, allowing any Indian to seek information from any authority on the payment of Rs 10, hinges closely on the independence of the CIC and its equivalents in the states ― state information commissions that adjudicate the matter in case information is not furnished to applicants within the parameters of the law.
(With PTI inputs)