RTI Act Current Affairs - 2020

SC Verdict: CJI Office under RTI act

On November 13, 2019, the Supreme Court upheld the 2010 judgement of Delhi High Court that the RTI (Right To Information) act was applicable to the office of CJI (Chief Justice of India) as well.

Key Findings of the Judgement

  • The CJI office and the SC are not two different public authorities. Under Article 124, SC includes office of CJI and the other judges as well
  • The relationship between the CJI and the judges would neither be fiduciary nor be beneficial.
  • The judgement said that under Section 6(2) of the act, the motive of the seeker of information is not a relevant consideration.
  • The Public Information Officer has vast discretion under the RTI act. The PIO should make sure judicial independence and accountability are well maintained as they go hand in hand. It is important for the SC to maintain confidentiality in certain aspects of judicial administration.

Background

In 2010, the CIC (Central Information Commission) ordered the SC CPIOs (Central Public Information Officer) to provide information on personal assets possessed by the judges of SC. The order was challenged at the Delhi HC to which it ruled that SC and CJI have statutory duty to furnish information regarding administration and functioning of the SC.

Appeals were filed to SC on HC verdict in 2010. Though filed in 2010, it was heard and referred to a Constitution bench only in 2016 and the judgement was pronounced now.

New Draft Rules for CICs and ICs

The CIC-Chief Information Commissioner and IC-Information Commissioner currently hold tenure of 5 years and their perks are similar to that of the Chief Election Commissioners as defined in Right to Information Act, 2005. According to the new draft rules from DoPT (Department of Personnel and Training), the terms and perks of the CICs and ICs are to be fixed as that of Cabinet Secretary and Secretary to the GoI level.

Significance

The Government believes that these jobs are becoming sinecures for the favored few. It also means that they are likely to be downgraded in the “Table of Precedence”. Their positions are to be several notches down the CAG and Chairman, UPSC. They are likely to be reached to position 23 as occupied by the Secretary to GoI. The Table of Precedence is a list prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs based on the hierarchy and rank of government officials.

RTI act

The tenure and perks of the CIC and IC officials are defined in the Right to Information Act. In July 2019, the GoI amended the act to lay down terms and conditions of services to the officials.

At present, according to the act, the CICs and ICs avail Rs 34,000 as allowance. It includes rent-free full furnished accommodation, 3 LTCs and unlimited medical allowances to their spouses and dependents. According to the new rules, the allowances are to be reduced to Rs 10,000.

SC’s ruling

In February 2019, SC on its landmark verdict, in a PIL filed by RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj rules that the CICs should have same status as that of Chief election Commissioner thwarting the Centre’s bid to bring it under its ambit.