The Supreme Court on Monday criticised the Centre for failing to file a response to a plea on the constitutional validity of the Right to Information (Amendment) Act 2019 which gives power to the government to prescribe tenure, allowances and salary of information commissioners, Live Law reported.

In Monday’s hearing, the Centre sought more time to respond to the plea filed by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh. To this, Justice MR Shah took exception and said: “The notice was issued in January, 2020! What have you been doing? It is a very important matter. What is wrong with you?”

The bench, which also consisted of Justice DY Chandrachud, however, granted two more weeks to the Centre to submit its response.

Ramesh tweeted on Monday saying that he hoped the Centre will take the matter seriously after the court’s comments.

Jairam Ramesh’s plea

In July 2019, the Parliament had passed the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2019, to change the fixed tenure of the information commissioners, and make their pay and service conditions subject to the executive rules to be made by the government.

Following this, Ramesh had filed the plea suggesting that the purpose of the RTI Act which is “a salutary piece of legislation aimed at promoting transparency in public administration and empowering the common citizen”, is violated when the salaries and tenure of the information commissioners depend on the sheer pleasure of the government, according to The Hindu.

“Section 2(c) of the amendment Act grants absolute power to the central government to prescribe the salaries, allowances, and terms and conditions of service of the central information commissioners that in the pre-amended Act was fixed to be on par with election commissioners under section 13(5) of the RTI Act,” the plea stated, adding that it “jeopardizes the independence of information commissioners”.

On January 31, 2020, the Supreme Court had sought the Centre’s response on Ramesh’s plea, to which it has failed to respond so far.

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