The proposed amendments to the Right to Information Act “do not involve any social or financial costs” and therefore no consultations were necessitated outside the government, the Prime Minister’s Office told Parliament on Thursday.
Rajya Sabha MP Ravi Prakash Verma had asked if the government was considering a proposal to make amendments to the Act. He had also asked for the details and stage of the proposal, if the Central Information Commission was consulted in this regard, and reasons if it was not consulted.
“The proposed amendments do not involve any social or financial costs which would have necessitated any consultative process outside the Government,” said Minister of State for the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh in reply to the question. “Consultations with Department of Expenditure, Department of Legal Affairs (DoLA) and Legislative Department had been undertaken in this regard.”
In November, the outgoing Chief Information Commissioner Radha Krishna Mathur had said that the Centre did not consult the commission on its proposed amendments to the Right to Information Act. Mathur had said that the proposed amendments were discussed internally in the commission. “But the Commission has chosen not to take a stand on the proposal,” he said. “We were not asked.”
In October, former Central Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu had opposed the proposed changes in the Act. “By amending the existing Act, the government is trying to reduce the status and the power of the central information commission,” he had said.
The government has sought to amend the bill that will allow the Centre powers to determine the tenure and salaries of central and state information commissioners. The tenure of the chief information commissioner and other information commissioners will be set by the government, instead of the fixed five-year term they get at present.
RTI activists have contended that this will weaken the act by giving the Centre more control over information commissioners. Opposition parties had come together in July to resist the move to amend the Act.