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Previous Year Question & Answers | UPSC Mains 2020

Q. “Recent amendments to the Right to Information Act will have a profound impact on the autonomy and independence of the Information Commission”. Discuss? (Answer in 150 words)
Answer:

The Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019 has made amendment in the status, salary and tenure of the Central Information Commissioners (CICs) and State Information Commissioners.

These amendments have raised concerns regarding accountability, autonomy and independence of the Information Commission.

Amendments Done in the RTI Act:

1. The amendment empowers the Central government to unilaterally decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of Information Commissioners, both at the Centre and the States.

2. Also, the status of the Central Information Commissioners (CICs) has been brought on par with the Election Commissioners and the status of State Information Commissioners with the Chief Secretary in the States.

Impact of Amendments:

1. It would grant greater powers to the center as everything will be decided by the government. Thus, the neutrality of information commissioners would be crippled and make information commissioners “More Loyal” to the government.

2. The amendment diminishes the status of the CIC, SCIC and IC from that of the Supreme Court Judge and thus, this would lower their authority to issue the directives to the senior government officers.

3. The amendment would adversely affect the autonomy and independence of the CIC, SCIC and ICs as the Centre will now have the authority to decide the tenure, terms and salaries of these officials. Thus, this is a threat to independence.

4. On issues like NPAs, demonetization, RBI, etc., the information commission got the government to reveal significant information something it can do only if it has both authority and independence.

5. It appears as an effort to bring the Central Information Commission under the absolute control of the central government.

6. The CIC and ICs deal with huge vested interests, especially in the senior bureaucracy. It is important for them to be independent.

The 2nd ARC held that RTI is the master key to governance. This amendment will take away the transparency as it will empower the central government to unilaterally decide which will fundamentally weaken the whole basic idea and structure of the RTI.

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