RTI Amendment Bill 2018 has been in news and commentary since last couple of months and therefore its a fresh topic. You will not have much task in approaching this question then.
Start by introducing the amendment bill and its salient features like what are the provisions that it is trying to amend and what are the new features it is adding to the existing RTI Act.
Then discuss the rationale given by the government for bringing in these amendments and why government doesn’t want CIC to be equivalent to CEC.
In the next subheading, provide the concerns that are being raised by the activists and opposition. Important points are that lack of fixed tenure and pay will make CIC non independent, how can central government decide on the tenure and pay of state information commissioners, the bill was not put for the consultation on the public unlike rest of the bills, CIC and CEC are performing constitutional duties and protecting fundamental rights therefore how can they be not on equal footing etc.
Provide some suggestions to make the bill a more transparent one and an improved version of RTI Act 2005.
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2018, seeks to amend the Right to Information Act of 2005. It proposes to give the Centre the power to set the tenure and salaries of State and Central Information Commissioners. The bill was supposed to be introduced in the parliament in this monsoon session but for now it has been deferred.
Positives of RTI Act 2005:
- RTI Act 2005 did not create a new bureaucracy for implementing the law.
- The RTI statute carefully and deliberately empowered the Information Commission to be the highest authority in the country with the mandate to order any office in the country to provide information as per the provisions of the Act.
- RTI act has a broad base of peoples’ representation, consultation and discussion.
- It is a truly democratic piece of legislation that can empower people to challenge misgovernance.
Provisions of RTI Amendment Bill 2018:
- The proposed amendments show that the Central government seeks control over the tenure, salary and allowances of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at the Centre, and the State Chief Information Commissioners.
- The Central government will prescribe the term and salary of the commissioners by issuing notifications from time to time.
- This means that the government need not go to parliament to amend the RTI Act, but it can simply issue a notification either to reduce or increase the term of a particular batch of commissioners and their salary.
- The Centre will also fix the terms for State Information Commissioners.
- The current law gives Information Commissioners a tenure of five years and salaries which match those of Election Commissioners.
- In the current law, the salaries and allowances and other terms and conditions of service of the state chief information commissioner and state information commissioners shall be the same as that of the state election commissioner and the chief secretary to the state government, respectively.
Rationale given by the Central Government:
- The functions being carried out by the Election Commission of India and Central and State Information Commissions are totally different.
- The Election Commission is a constitutional body and is responsible for the superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all election to Parliament and to the Legislature of every State and of election to the office of President and Vice President held under the Constitution.
- The Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions are statutory bodies established under the provision of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
- Therefore, the mandate of Election Commission of India and Central and State Information Commissions are different.
- Hence their status and service conditions need to be rationalised accordingly.
Concerns against the Bill:
- The Bill is being opposed by several Opposition political parties and RTI activists, who warn that the amendments will dilute the RTI law and compromise the independence of the Information Commissions.
- This is simply a way of giving the Central government a greater grip on Information Commissioners, who have been giving orders which the government finds inconvenient.
- The Centre usurping the power to decide the tenure and salaries of State Information Commissioners raises key issues of federalism.
- The secrecy around the amendments has prevented any meaningful debate or public engagement with the proposed changes.
- It’s ironic that the process of amending a law meant to bring transparency itself lacks transparency.
- The Centre has violated norms of transparency by not having any public consultations over this vital issue and has thereby trespassed democratic norms.
- Centre is wrongly interpreting CIC/IC as a statutory body and not as a constitutional body unlike CEC.
- Supreme Court time and again said that the right to vote and RTI are fundamental rights.
- Hence, the chief information commission and chief election commissioner stand on equal footing, and are rightly placed at par by the RTI Act 2005.
- Fixed term plus higher rank and difficult process to remove makes the CIC independent. Uncertain term and fluctuating salary by executive notification reduces the CIC to an obedient subordinate.
- Not consulting the civil society and the state governments before this Bill was readied for introduction, will amount to undemocratic imposition.
What should government do to make RTI Act better:
- Place all the factors that warranted any major policy change before the people and sought the opinion of the affected people.
- Make it easier to pay the application fee
- Develop a reliable online system to apply for information
- Timely filling up of vacancies in central as well as state information commissions.
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2018 attempts to dilute the independence of central and state information commissioners, besides giving undue powers to the government of the day to appoint commissioners with an uncertain term and salary. The Bill intends to defeat the very purpose of the RTI Act 2005, besides being an affront to the federalism enshrined as one of the basic features of the constitution. Deferring the Bill after preparing to introduce it in the current monsoon session of parliament is temporary good news for good governance.
-Introduction is incomplete….it should talk about both the RTI and recent amendment how is going to make it subordinate…in introductory form…which later can be explained in details…
-Points mentioned are good and well arranged…
-conclusion should be way forward…and certainly your own views as a solution to the problems mentioned….rather talking about the same problems here as well….
Overall, the main body is good…but more rational points needed intro as well as conclusion…refer our model answer for better clarity….
CD test 20242
-Answer seems to be incomplete…bring more ideas in intro…it is more about control over the tenure, salary and allowances…okay…but need to explain about tenure, salary and allowances comparing with the original RTI Act and the recent provisions of amendment…
-However, the removal process doesn’t matter here most…
-2nd page…1st para….not function upto their potential…but how? justification needed…and also this points seems to appear here suddenly…there is no linkage…
-Conclusion is okay…okay…bring broader view…
overall average answer…though good attempt….will certainly improve further…
Marks awarded: 3/10