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.