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CIC digs in its heels against draft RTI rules

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(G.N.S., Rakesh Ranjan) Dt. 27
New Delhi
Central Information Commissioners, Right to Information Act, RTI, RTI Act rules, Chief Information Commissioner, Yashovardhan Azad, M Sridhar Acharyulu, department of personnel and training, R K Mathur, Human Resource Development, Narendra Modi, Bimal Julka, Amitava Bhattacharya
Central Information Commissioners have objected to the Centre’s draft Right to Information (RTI) Act rules. Though the government claims that it is framed to streamline filing of RTI applications, appeals, and functioning of commissions, information commissioners feel it would facilitate the government control over the CIC and destroy its credibility.
The draft new rules delegate more discretionary powers to Chief Information Commissioner to assign any RTI appeal to a commissioner in larger public interest.
At a recent meeting of CIC, information commissioners Yashovardhan Azad and M Sridhar Acharyulu expressed strong reservations to the insertion of a new Rule 15 and said it would be “misused” by the government. Discussing the draft RTI rules, sent by the department of personnel and training (DoPT) for comments, information commissioners said in their comments that there was a need for CIC to be seen as independent and “not a part of the government”.
Rule 15 of the draft reads: “An appeal/ complaint shall be posted before a single bench for hearing/ disposal, unless the Chief Information Commissioner by a special or general order issued in this behalf from time to time directs that the appeal/complaint or a category of the same may be posted for hearing/ disposal by another bench or a bench of two or more information commissioners either at the request of an information commissioner, or suo motu if the same involves an intricate question of law or larger public interest.”
The objection was raised by Acharyulu in an earlier meeting of the commission in April.
Incidentally, chief information commissioner R K Mathur had taken away the charge of Human Resource Development (HRD) from him in January. The move had become controversial as it followed Acharyulu’s order to make public DU degree records of 1978, the year Prime Minister Narendra Modi had got his degree.
The two commissioners pointed out that the new rule was unnecessary as information commissioners have regularly recused themselves from matters where doubts could be raised about their objectivity.
Information commissioners also said the draft rules did not address several issues like non-compliance of CIC orders and increasing instances of misuse. Information commissioners Bimal Julka and Amitava Bhattacharya pointed out the need for new provisions to address noncompliance of orders. The transparency watchdog also demanded stiff penalties for misuse of RTI Act and suggested that DoPT must address it so “genuine applicants are heard by CIC expeditiously”.

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