Days after appointing four Information Commissioners in the Central Information Commission, the government Friday advertised for as many more posts in the transparency panel while sticking to the controversial points related to salary and tenure of new appointees. The salary, allowances and other terms and conditions of service of the Information Commissioner shall be as may be specified at the time of the appointment of the selected candidates, the advertisement issued by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions stated.
The move of the government to specify salary, allowances and other terms and conditions at the time of appointment is seen as an assault on the autonomy of the transparency panel by the activists and some former commissioners.
"Shockingly, the government has not given up its intent to 'Amend RTI Act, 2005. In the absence of any amendment to RTI Act, 2005, the government's failure to specify the tenure and salaries of commissioners, even though these are defined in the RTI Act, 2005, is considered the violation to existing law of the land," activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retired) said. The Right to Information Act states that the salary of the Chief Information Commissioner will be at par with the Chief Election Commissioner while Information Commissioners will command the salary of Election Commissioners.
The Act also defines that tenure of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be for five years from the date on which he enters upon his office or age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. "The government is sticking to its point of specifying salary, allowances and other terms and conditions of service of Information Commission in spite of Supreme Court directives. We will raise the issue before the apex court on January 22 hearing," Anjali Bhardwaj, one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court in RTI matters, told PTI.
The Commission is left with four vacancies on the post of Information Commissioner after as many were recently appointed by the Centre. The move had come after activists, including Bhardwaj and Batra, had recently approached the Supreme Court pleading that the government fill vacancies in the CIC and other state information commissions. A bench of Justices A K Sikri, S Abdul Nazeer and R Subhash Reddy had asked the Centre to put on the website details of the search committee for CIC and ICs.
Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand had informed the court that a total of 65 applications have come for the post of CIC and 280 applications have been received for the post of four ICs in the Central Information Commission. She said that after these posts are filled up, a notification will be issued for inviting applications for remaining posts of ICs. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for RTI activist Anjali Bhardwaj, said that the government is trying to dilute the RTI Act by bringing an amendment.
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