How Modi government's proposed amendments could destroy the RTI Act

An illuminated Parliament house
The Narendra Modi government's proposed amendments to the Right to Information Act have confirmed the worst fears of opposition parties and activists. The Modi government has set out to erode the autonomy of the central and state information commissioners.

The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2018, circulated among the Members of Parliament, seeks to remove the statutory safeguards in place to ensure the independence of information commissioners at the Centre and in the states.

Currently, the salaries and tenures of information commissioners, both at the Centre and in the states, are statutorily protected and at par with those of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners at the Centre, and also the election commissioners in the states.

The Bill states that the salaries and tenures of the information commissioners at the Centre and in the states will be controlled by the Union government. It states that the mandate and functions of the Central and State Information Commissions are totally different to that of the Election Commission. “Hence, their status and service conditions need to be rationalized accordingly,” the amendment states.

According to the objectives of the amendment Bill, “the salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners and the State Chief Information Commissioner and the State Information Commissioners shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government”.

It also states that the information commissioners, both at the Centre and in states, “shall hold office for such term as may be prescribed by the Central government instead of five years”.

“It seeks to completely destroy the autonomy of the information commissioners by allowing the central government to decide tenure and salaries of central and state information commissioners, which are currently statutorily protected,” RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj tweeted.

The Congress, Left parties and other opposition parties say they will oppose the Bill. While the government has a majority in the Lok Sabha, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance still does not have a simple majority in the Rajya Sabha.


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