Updated: March 9, 2021 5:34:01 am
Amendments made to the Right to Information Act and the Rules thereunder in 2019 do not jeopardise the independence of the Information Commission nor does it affect the citizen’s right to information, transparency and accountability, the Centre has told the Supreme Court in response to a petition challenging the changes.
In a counter affidavit filed in reply to the plea by former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh, the Centre said the “independence of the institutions is not jeopardized and is rather enhanced by the Impugned Amendments and Rules”.
Ramesh had challenged the RTI (Amendment) Act, 2019 and the Right to Information (Term of Office, Salaries, Allowances and Other Terms and Condition of Service of Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commissioner in the Central Information Commission, State Chief Information Commissioner, and State Information commissioner in the State Information Commission) Rules, 2019, as ultra vires the Constitution.
The Centre said that the before the Amendment Act, there were no specific provisions for the conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commissioners, State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioners under the RTI Act and Rules and therefore, for these matters, the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners) Act was referred to, which in turn referred to the Act and Rules Governing the Service Conditions of Supreme Court Judges.
“The present Impugned Amendments merely formalize the otherwise dependent provisions and provide a separate unique procedure and conditions for the independence of the institutions under the RTI Act,” said the government.
The Centre said provisions dealing with the powers and functions of the Information Commissioners had not been touched and hence “it is unambiguously clear that the powers and functions of the Information Commissions remains undiluted…”.
“Crucially, it is submitted that the Amendment Act is not in any way going to affect the citizens’ Right to Information…,” it said.
The Centre said the RTI Act was enacted under Entry 97 of the Union List and therefore, it is “exclusively competent” to legislate on it. “However, it should be noted that there is no interference with rights guaranteed to the States under the Act,” said the affidavit.
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