Split in CIC over RTI Act amendment out in the open at annual convention

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New Delhi: The split within the Central Information Commission (CIC) over the government’s move to amend Right to Information (RTI) Act was out in the open on Friday at the annual convention of the transparency watchdog.

Even as the government’s move to amend RTI Act came under fire from academicians and RTI activists at the day-long convention, information commissioner D P Sinha threw his weight behind the move. Wrapping up a session on RTI (Amendment) Bill, Sinha said, “If the Constitution of India can be amended 123 times, why can’t the RTI Act be amended.” Sinha made a strong case for the amendment as he said, “We have to do some course correction which makes it (the Act) relevant to the times.” Sinha pointed towards increasing misuse of RTI Act and said, “When we hear cases we realise there is repetition of information sought. Did we frame this sunshine Act to favour contractors to win contracts? We framed it to bring probity in public life. We have to see that the public good is served.”

Sinha’s support follows vociferous protests by information commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu who had demanded withdrawal of the amendment Bill as it sought to “destroy and smash” the independence of the Commission in August. He had also written a letter to chief information commissioner R K Mathur to call a full Commission meeting so that the issue could be discussed threadbare. In a Commission meeting, the government’s move had come under attack from Acharyulu and information commissioner Yashovardhan Azad. The Commission had then decided to open up the issue and discuss it in its annual convention.

CIC had raised eyebrows within the government establishment as it decided to address contentious issues in the convention, including impact on RTI Act implementation of Justice Srikrishna committee report on data protection and the amendment Bill.

The government’s move attracted the ire of activists. Making a presentation during the session, RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj said, “The move would compromise the independence of the Commissions, which are the last port of call for applicants.”

The amendments enable the Centre to prescribe the term of office, salaries and allowances and other terms and conditions of service of chief information commissioners, information commissioners, state chief information commissioners and state information commissioners.

Source: Economic Times