Centre rings death knell for RTI

Centre rings death knell for RTI
Highlights

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” as they say. The 2.0 of Narendra Modi rule seems to be an exception to this rule.

"Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," as they say. The 2.0 of Narendra Modi rule seems to be an exception to this rule.

The Right to Information Act was brought in by the then UPA regime to ensure free flow of information. As the Congress forcefully argued, the current amendment to the RTC Act is an attempt to control the very Act and its provisions with seemingly simple changes.

The amendment is itself a short one - rather two. One of it seeks to control the term of the office of the Central Commissioners and State Commissioners. It provides for changing the age limit for those in position.

The second change is that the salaries, allowances and terms of conditions which earlier were equal to the Election Commissioners shall also be as 'prescribed'. The entire amendment is basically two things. There is no sense or logic to these amendments at all, one could say.

One could understand an amendment moved to strengthen the institutions under the RTI, one could understand an amendment moved by a bona fide government to elevate the institutions. As the Congress has argued, when the Lokpal Bill was brought in, the government proposed a Constitutional amendment to it on the ground that it would be largely statutory, but the status would be Constitutional.

But the present amendment brought by the BJP-led NDA government is a reverse amendment to devalue and degrade it on a very strange ground. The government argued that unless it passed the amendment, the Chief Information Commissioner becomes equivalent to a Judge of the Supreme Court.

So, the object of this amendment is that the Chief Information Commissioner should not claim equivalence with the Supreme Court Judge and therefore, the amendment is brought. Whoever has raised any objection to this so far? Why did the Centre all of sudden think that a Chief Information Commissioner should not draw salary equivalent to that of the Supreme Court Judge or that of the Election Commission members?

Did any Supreme Court Judge or EC or CAG object to it? Have they felt insulted that a statute which existed all these while which gave terms of service equivalent to Election Commissioners so insulting because Election Commissioners' terms of service are in turn equated to Supreme Court Judges?

What a strange statement of object that it seeks to change it because Commissioners will, in this manner, be treated as equal to Supreme Court Judges! Ultimately, they are treated on the basis of the power they exercised.

Everyone understands the powers of the Supreme Court, everyone understands the powers of the CAG and the EC. Are they the same compared to that of the CIC? Coming to the tenure itself, the amendment says, "as may be prescribed".

It means that the Centre would fix the age of retirement at 63, 61 or 60 even. No legislative mandate is required for it! It is getting a carte blanche from the legislature, that allows the Centre to prescribe what it likes and when it likes.

Why was it fixed at 65 earlier? So that it preserves the independence and autonomy of the institution. The intention is clear. R.I.P. RTI!

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