Central Information Commission: India
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Central Information Commission
HC slams CIC for exceeding powers
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
From the archives of The Times of India 2007, 2009
New Delhi: Delhi high court on Friday clipped the wings of the Central Information Commission while quashing the latter’s observations against the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) vicechairman for failing to appear before it with regard to an RTI matter.
The high court has said the Central Information Commission has exceeded its powers. “This is a case where the Central Information Commission and the Chief Information Commissioner have overstepped their jurisdiction and have thereby transgressed the provisions of the very Act which created them,” said a division bench of Justices B D Ahmed and Veena Birbal.
The high court bench set aside the CIC’s September 2009 order against the senior-most officer of DDA and said “no adverse inference could have been drawn for the absence of the DDA vicechairman”.
HC clarified that the CIC could call any person to be present during the hearing before it only for the purposes of giving evidence — oral or written — or for producing any document.
“The DDA vice-chairman was not summoned for either giving oral evidence or written evidence or to produce any document or things in his possession. He was directed to be present for other reason. That power is not there with the CIC,” the court added.
The court also set aside the commission’s order appointing an inquiry committee to go into the details of dealing with the RTI Act by all wings and departments of DDA.
On September 22 last year, the CIC had formed the committee comprising director of ministry of urban development Shujata Chaturvedi, Dunu Roy from the Hazards Centre and Pankaj KP Shreyaskar, joint registrar, and sought a report within 45 working days from the date of order.
The commission order had come after DDA secretary V M Bansal was not able to clarify various points raised by the commission while hearing the plea of an RTI applicant Sarbajit Roy who had complained of poor implementation of RTI Act at the DDA.
‘CIC, commissioners can’t be equated with SC judges’
June 11, 2018: The Times of India
The chief information commissioner and information commissioners cannot be treated at par with Supreme Court judges as the former are statutory appointments and the required qualifications are different from those needed to be appointed as judges of the apex court, government sources said.
Sources said granting SC judge status to members of one statutory body and denying it to the others is “unfair”. “There are 31 SC judges. In the Election Commission, only three functionaries are in positions whereas through the equivalence provided in the RTI Act, more than 30 functionaries are being assigned such status and equivalence. This number is very large and creates anomaly with reference to other statutory bodies,” a source said.
Posts of ICs and SC judges are also incomparable, the sources said, because while the former is created through a statute, the Supreme Court judges hold constitutional positions and pass orders that become the law of the land. Election Commission is similarly empowered by the Constitution. Orders passed by information commissioners, on the other hand, can even be challenged in the high courts, sources said.
“The information commission is a creature of a statute and not the Constitution. “Its mandate is confined to protection of a statutory right viz: Right to Information,” said a source.
As per the present provisions, the chief information commissioner and information commissioners in the Centre and states are given status equivalent to the chief election commissioner and election commissioners. The CEC and ECs are equated to the Supreme Court judges in terms of conditions of service.
Disposal of cases
The Times of India, May 05 2016
CIC disposes of over 28,000 cases in 2015-16
The Central Information Commission has disposed of 28,188 cases in 2015-16 as compared to 20,181 in 2014-15,Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday.
The number of appeals and complaints disposed of by the commission in 2015-16 indicates an improved performance over the previous year, minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions Jitendra Singh said.
‘Govt intimidates CIC with litigation:’ 2018
Swati Mathur, Govt intimidating CIC with litigation, says ex-member, December 5, 2018: The Times of India
Ex-Info Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu Seeks President’s Help
Former information commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu has alleged that the government was using the litigation route to intimidate the Central Information Commission and to dissuade information commissioners from discharging their legal duties.
In a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind, Acharyulu said there were around 1,700 writ petitions, mostly filed “surprisingly and sadly” by the government and institutions like the Reserve Bank of India, seeking action against the commission/commissioners for doing their work mandated under the RTI Act. The CIC was set up under the RTI Act to deal with grievances related to RTI requests, and has jurisdiction over all central public authorities.
Acharyulu, who completed his five-year tenure on November 21, sought the President’s intervention in “smoothening the inherent contradiction” where one wing of the Union of India acted against the other. “Government offices want their ‘rights’ (of non-disclosure) to be protected from the information commission created by the Union of India as per the will of Parliament,” he wrote.
While the trigger for Acharyulu’s letter to the President was two petitions filed by the RBI against the CIC for ordering it to implement Supreme Court orders upholding CIC’s direction to disclose names of wilful defaulters of banks, he also cited his own “curious” case in which he was impleaded for an order he passed seeking the educational details of PM Narendra Modi.
Right to Information (Amendment), 2019
July 28, 2019: The Times of India
WHAT NEW AMENDMENTS MEAN FOR RIGHT TO INFORMATION ACT
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed in the Rajya Sabha amid high drama and an Opposition walkout. The Opposition says the changes put forth in the bill, which had already cleared the Lok Sabha, undermine the independence of the RTI watchdog. The government has argued that the amendments leave the information officials’ powers untouched and are aimed at streamlining the commission. A look at the changes being effected by the amended Act
1 No fixed tenure, or salaries, Centre says it’s a statutory body
The amendments do away with the fixed tenure of five years for the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and the Information Commissioners — instead, they will serve for a tenure determined by the central government.
Also, the Centre can now determine the salary of the CIC and the ICs, which is currently benchmarked with the salary of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the Election Commissioners, respectively, which in turn is benchmarked with the salary of a Supreme Court judge, amounts to Rs 2.5 lakh per month, along with a monthly allowance of Rs 34,000 and the usual perks like rent-free furnished housing and 200 litres of fuel every month.
After the amendments, the government has the power to fix the salary, which could be lower — given that the Information Commission is a statutory body unlike the EC, which is a constitutional body. However, the current incumbents’ salaries will not be affected by the amendment.
2 Centre to decide appointments, even for state CIC, ICs
Currently, the CIC and ICs are chosen by a three-member panel of the PM, the Leader of Opposition or leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha and a Cabinet minister nominated by the PM. Similarly, the State Chief Information Commissioners (SCIC) and State Information Commissioners (SIC) are chosen by a three-member panel of the CM, the state’s leader of opposition or leader of the largest opposition party in the state assembly and a state Cabinet minister nominated by the CM.
The amendments give the power to appoint and decide the term as well as the salary of SCIC and SICs to the Centre — which nullifies the independence of the state legislatures. Even the CIC and the ICs will serve at the pleasure of the government — raising the possibility that they would be more interested in ensuring the longevity of their tenures rather than serving the citizens’ interests.
3 Extended tenures possible
Current rules stipulate that no CIC, IC, SCIC or SIC can serve more than one term, which is for a maximum period of 5 years or till the age of 65, whichever is earlier. For ICs and SICs, if one of them is nominated to the post of CIC or SCIC, his/her total tenure as both IC and CIC or SIC and SCIC cannot exceed 5 years. Since the amended Act gives the government the power to fix tenures, there’s every likelihood that an incumbent seen as pliable or ‘friendly’ to the Centre may get to serve more than one term.
4 And termination in Centre’s hands?
If the tenure of the CIC, IC, SCIC and SIC are to be fixed by the Centre, it may follow that their removal from office may also be dependent on the Centre, whereas in the original bill, the CIC and IC may be removed only by the President — and the state governor in case of SCIC and SIC — after an inquiry by the Supreme Court finds reason for their dismissal from office.
Central Information Commission: India