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Govt Seeks Bureaucrat-led Committees to Probe Complaints Against Information Commissioners

The proposal sent to the Central Information Commission (CIC) by the Department of Personnel and Training was unanimously opposed by the commissioners, and Chief Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava was urged to send a suitable reply to the government

PTI

Updated:April 2, 2019, 12:54 PM IST
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Govt Seeks Bureaucrat-led Committees to Probe Complaints Against Information Commissioners
File photo of Central Information Commission logo.
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New Delhi: The Centre has proposed to form committees under cabinet secretary to look into complaints against Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners, a move seen as an attack on the independence of the transparency panel.

The proposal sent to the Central Information Commission (CIC) by the Department of Personnel and Training was discussed in a meeting of the Commission on March 27 where all but one of the seven commissioners, including the chief, were present.

It was unanimously opposed by the commissioners, and Chief Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava was urged to send a suitable reply to the government, sources privy to the development said.

"We will be sending a communication to the government soon," Bhargava told PTI without elaborating on the Commission's deliberations and the nature of response it intends to send to the Centre.

According to the proposal, the government intends to form committees under cabinet secretary to look into complaints against Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners, sources said.

The move was triggered by a Supreme Court query to know the procedure to handle complaints against Information Commissioners.

But the apex court had not made any observation or passed directions on the issue, a former chief information commissioner said on condition of anonymity.

"How can a cabinet secretary or any other officer of the government, who under law can be investigated, summoned, penalised and questioned by the CIC, investigate it? The proposal also says that other secretaries will also be a part of it. This is a serious attack on the independence of the Commission and it must be opposed," the former CIC said.

He said there will be complaints against an Information Commissioner adjudicating disclosure of information from people who do not get expected order, but the Commission needs complete independence so that it can fearlessly decide a matter.

According to Section 14 (1) of the RTI Act, the Chief Information Commissioner or any Information Commissioner shall be removed from office "only by order of the President" on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity "after the Supreme Court, on a reference made to it by the President, has, on inquiry, reported that the Chief Information Commissioner or any Information Commissioner, as the case may be, ought on such ground be removed".

The Act also gives parity in terms and conditions of the service of Chief Information Commissioner with that of Chief Election Commissioner and that of Information Commissioners with Election Commissioners.

There is no such committee to probe complaints against Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners who are constitutional authorities, then, why is there a need for such a mechanism when it comes to Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners, sources said.

Another former information commissioner said since the Lokpal has now been set up, it was fully empowered to handle any complaint of corruption.
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