IC Current Affairs - 2019

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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.

Government Proposes Committees to decide on complaints against CIC and ICs

The government has proposed setting up bureaucrat-led committees that would sit and decide on complaints against the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs).

The government has proposed setting up of two committees:

  • One to receive and decide on complaints against the CIC. The committee would include the Cabinet Secretary; Secretary, DoPT; and a retired CIC.
  • Second one for complaints against Information Commissioners. The committee would comprise of Secretary (Coordination) in the Cabinet Secretariat; Secretary, DoPT; and a retired IC.

Why the move is opposed?

Section 14 (1) of the RTI Act states that Commissioners can be removed only by the President on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity based on the reference made to the Supreme Court by the President.

Further Section 14 (3) lists the other grounds for removal which includes:

  • If he/she is adjudged an insolvent,
  • Has been convicted of an offence which involves moral turpitude.
  • Engages during his/her term of office in any paid employment outside.
  • Is unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body; or
  • Has acquired such financial or other interest as is likely to affect prejudicially his functions as the CIC or an IC.

The bureaucrat dominated committee proposed by the government is seen as an attempt to skew checks and balances in favour of the political executive. The committee is also criticised as an attempt by the political dispensation to influence the working of the ICs and it will take away the independence of an institution that has served the citizen’s demand for more transparency in the government by making the Commission more vulnerable to government pressure.