October 25 2019: Sidestepping concerns of civil society, the Centre on Thursday notified the date from which the recent changes in the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 will come into force.
The central government hereby appoints October 24, 2019 as the date on which the provisions of The Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019 shall come into force, a notification by the Personnel Ministry said, without giving further details.
The government had in July introduced a bill to amend the transparency law, a move criticised by transparency activists who termed it "an attack on the independence of the panel".
Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh had then said that it was meant to further streamline and institutionalize the RTI Act of 2005 which was drafted by the then government in haste and thus had several missing links.
"Further, the Information Commission is a statutory body and by linking it to the Election Commission and Supreme Court, which are constitutional bodies, there is an anomaly which needs to be corrected," Singh had said.
The bill was passed in both houses of Parliament in July and it got assent from the president in August.
Transparency activists had slammed the government’s move to amend the RTI Act to take away statutory parity of information commissioners with election commissioners in terms of tenure and service conditions, saying it was an attack on the independence of the panel.
According to the amended law, the government can prescribe the tenure of office, salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions of service of chief information commissioner (CIC) and information commissioners (ICs).
he RTI Act of 2005 allowed CIC and ICs a fixed tenure of five years or up to the age of 65 years. Besides this, their salary and allowances were at par with the election commissioners.
Former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan Lokur had recently said that the changes introduced in the Right to Information Act could be detrimental.
"Why would anyone want to join the information commission when there is no clarity about salary or tenure of job," he had said.
Speaking at a discussion on the RTI Act organised by Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS), Lokur had said that in spite of the amendments, passed two months back, the Centre had not made rules regarding the salary and tenure of information commissioners.
Underlining that the act had empowered people, Justice Lokur had said that the RTI law would continue to suffer till the rules were made.