Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

SC notice to centre on plea challenging amendments in RTI Act

  • Plea says the amendments have substantially altered the architecture of independence of information commissioners
  • The plea was filed by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice on a plea by member of Parliament Jairam Ramesh challenging the amendments in the Right to Information Act, 2005.

The notice was issued by a bench comprising of Justices DY Chandrachud and KM Joseph.

It alleges that it is violative of object of the parent statute itself. There is no rational nexus between the Amendment Act/Rules and the object of the Act itself and infringes fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution.

The plea says that the amendments have substantially altered the architecture of independence of information commissioners.

“Even assuming the RTI Amendment Act merely delegated rule making power to the Central Government without thwarting the independence of Information Commissioners, its accompanying RTI Rules complete the destruction of the independence of Information Commissioners." It alleges.

“A perusal of the statement of objects and reasons of the RTI Amendment Act bears out that the absolute vesting of power to fix the term of office, salaries and service conditions of information commissioners in the central government was to further the “rationalization" of their service conditions which were to be made distinct from service conditions of election commissioners. This distinction was purportedly made on the basis that information commissioners being statutory functionaries cannot be placed on par with election commissioners and Supreme Court judges who are constitutional functionaries. This distinction is not only artificial, given that information commissioners perform constitutional functions in pursuance of the states’ constitutional obligations, but also completely devoid of any legal basis." The plea reads.

“... that there is no rational nexus with the object of the Act. It is vitiated by non-application of mind and motivated by extraneous considerations so as to negate, stultify and virtually render ineffective, the constitutionally guaranteed “Right to Information" under Article 19 of the COI. The real purpose behind enacting the amendments is to denude the authorities under the RTI of their independence and impartiality through overarching control by the government of the day," it further added.

He has prayed to declare and set aside the Right to Information Amendment Act, 2019 and its accompanying Right to Information (Term of Office, Salaries, Allowances and Other Terms and Conditions of Service) Rules, 2019 as ultra-vires to the aims and objects of the 2005 Act and the Constitution of India.

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