Govt to fix salaries of ICs, activists call it as dilution of RTI law

Opposition and activists allege that the move is intended to weaken the institution of information commissions

GN Bureau | April 13, 2018


#DOPT   #Salaries   #Information Commissioners   #Right to Information   #RTI   #Department of Personnel and Training  
(Illustration: Ashish Asthana)
(Illustration: Ashish Asthana)

The department of personnel and training (DOPT) is preparing a draft amendment to the RTI Act, 2005, to empower central and state governments to decided salary of information commissioners at the central and state commissions. Opposition parties and civil rights activists allege that the move is intended to weaken the institution of information commissions, terming it as “totally regressive”. As per the law, the salary of chief information commissioner equals to the salary of the chief election commissioner and the salary of the information commissioner equals to the election commissioner.

According to the NDTV,  the DOPT believes that it may not be a good practice to link salary of information commissions with election commission, as the former is merely a statutory body and the latter a constitutional body.

"We will oppose this amendment tooth and nail," the report quoted Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala as saying.

“The high status accorded to commissioners under the RTI Act is to empower them to carry out their functions in an independent manner and direct even the highest officials to comply with the RTI law. By seeking to empower the central government and state governments to decide salaries of information commissioners, the BJP government is trying to undermine the independence of commissioners and diminish their stature,” said Anjali Bharadwaj of Satark Nagrik Sangathan.

It is shocking that instead of addressing the problems related to implementation of the RTI Act like large backlogs of appeals/complaints resulting from non-appointment of information commissioners, the government is attempting to weaken the RTI Act through the proposed amendments, Bharadwaj said. 

A nationwide report on the performance of information commissions, by Satark Nagrik Sangathan and the Centre for Equity Studies, highlighted that currently there are four vacancies in the Central Information Commission and four more vacancies are due to arise in 2018. The central government has failed to make appointments, despite repeated representations by civil society. Even in states, the situation is extremely concerning.

The report highlighted that at the present rate of disposal and the number of pending appeals/complaints, an RTI appeal filed in West Bengal Commission would take 43 years to be disposed, while in Kerala, an appeal filed would be disposed 6.5 years later.
 

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