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RTI Act Changes Can be Detrimental, Warns Former SC Judge

Justice Madan Lokur said that in spite of the amendments, passed two months back, the central government had not made rules regarding the salary and tenure of information commissioners.


Updated:October 16, 2019, 10:09 PM IST
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RTI Act Changes Can be Detrimental, Warns Former SC Judge
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New Delhi: The changes introduced in the Right to Information Act can be detrimental, former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan Lokur said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a discussion on the RTI Act organised by Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS), Lokur said that in spite of the amendments, passed two months back, the central government had not made rules regarding the salary and tenure of information commissioners.

During the function, a report released by the organisation on the functioning of Information Commissions were also discussed.

The report, titled Report Card of Information Commissions in India 2018-19, analysed the performance of all 29 information commissions set up under the RTI Act.

"Why would anyone want to join the Information Commission when there is no clarity about salary or tenure of job," he said.

The government had amended the Right to Information Act in August this year taking into its hand the salary and tenure of new appointees in the Information Commission.

The RTI Act, 2005 had fixed the salary of the Information Commissioners to be at par with Election Commissioners and a fixed tenure of five years or age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.

It has been more than 2 months since the amendments received the assent of the President on August 1, 2019. However, till date the central government has not promulgated rules, a statement from SNS said.

Underlining that the Act has empowered people, Justice Lokur said that the RTI law will continue to suffer till the rules are made.

He also asked the Information Commissioners to punish the erring officials who withhold information and also find a way to punish officials whose incorrect decision make people suffer.

The analysis discussed in the function today shows that 22 Information Commissions across the country (which provided data) had imposed penalty in just 1.8 percent of cases decided by them.

Actual penalties were imposed in 2,091 cases - only in 3 percent of the cases where penalties were potentially imposable! The ICs therefore did not impose penalties in 97% of the cases where penalties were imposable, the report said.

He also urged the CIC to adopt a system of video-recording and broadcasting their proceedings as that would ensure greater transparency and also promote people's trust.

Speaking on the occasion, Chief Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava said they are not able to impose penalties because of a court order which directs them to prove mala fide on part of the erring officer before penalising him.

He said proving mala fide is a difficult thing, hence penalties are imposed only in cases where it is proven beyond doubt.

Bhargava stated that the commission was very concerned about the large backlog of appeals and complaints and the time taken to dispose cases.

Anjali Bhardwaj of SNS said governments across the country were trying to undermine the RTI Act which was evident from the analysis of working of Information Commissions.

In several commissions, despite large number of pending appeals and complaints, governments had failed to take steps to appoint information commissioners, thereby frustrating peoples right to know, she said.

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