No annual reports from 21 of 29 Information Commissioners
According to a recently released study, 21 out of 29 (72%) Information Commissions (ICs) have not published their annual reports for the year 2019-20.
The Central or State Information Commissions are the Final Appellate Authority constituted under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. It is mandated to redress the grievances of citizens who have been denied access to any kind of information.
They have wide powers like imposing fines on erring Public Information Officers (PIOs), initiating investigations against them (power of civil court), etc.
The IC is required to compulsorily prepare a report on the implementation of the law every year. The report is then presented to the Parliament or the State Legislature.
Right to Information (RTI)
- It makes citizen-centric governance by empowering citizens to access information from public authorities.
- The Right to Information Amendment Act, 2019 empowers the Central Government to notify the tenure, salary and allowances of Information Commissioners (Central/State). This has increased the risk of erosion of the autonomy of the IC.
- It may be noted that the RTI Act, 2005 had ensured a fixed tenure of five years for the Information Commissioner with a retirement age of 65 years. Provided that the tenure in accordance with the Amendment Act shall be notified by the Central Government.
- As per the 2005 Act, the salary of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners (at the central level) shall be equal to the salaries of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners respectively. Similarly, the salary of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at the state level will be equal to the salary of the Election Commissioners and the Chief Secretary to the State Government, respectively. Provided that in accordance with the Amendment Act, the salaries, allowances and other conditions and rules of service of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at the Central and State level shall be determined by the Central Government.
Important Sections of the RTI Act:
Section 4: Section 4 of the RTI Act requires suo-motu disclosure of information by each public authority. However, such disclosures have remained less than satisfactory.
Section 7: Information is required to be provided within 30 days from the date of receipt of the application (35 days from the date of sending to the APIO), 45 days for violation of human rights and 48 hours in cases involving the life and liberty of the individual.
Section 5: Appointment of Central/State Public Information Officers (CPIOs/SPIOs) with option to appoint Assistant PIOs.
Section 8: Exceptions to disclosure of information, such as affecting the sovereignty and integrity of the nation, affecting foreign relations, etc.
Source – The Hindu