New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday pulled up the central government for having given no reply, despite the lapse of a year, to a petition by Congress leader and MP Jairam Ramesh, in which had had challenged the amendments made to the right to Information Act.
The two-judge bench consisting of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah sounded least pleased with the government having sat on the apex court's notice despite the passage of over a year.
The court had asked the Centre in January 2020 to respond to the petition which argued that the Centre was deriving unusual powers to dictate at its whim and fancy the tenure, compensation and service conditions of the Chief Information Commission (CIC) and Information Commissioners. The petitioner pleaded that the amendments damaged the very purpose of the original legislation by giving government undue powers in the appointments and fixing of salaries of CICs
The court pointed out the serious lapse on the part of the government, "The notice was issued in January ,2020! What have you been doing for over a year?" asked the bench.
After the hearing, the government granted two weeks for the government to submit its response.
In a tweet on the subject, Jairam Ramesh said, "The Modi government undermined the sanctity of the RTI Act in 2019 through amendments. Then when I challenged it in Supreme court, the government failed to respond to the Court's notice for more than a year! I hope that the government will take this matter seriously at least now."
The contention of Ramesh is that the RTI Amendment Act of 2019 and its Rules deactivate the substance of the mechanism by making the CIC and the state commissions subservient to the executive at the Centre, by giving the Centre overarching powers to fix the tenure and the salary of the commissioners.
The petition also pointed out that in every case filed before the CIC, the central government and its different agencies are parties.
Criticisms had been raised about the amendment that any dilution of the independence of the CIC will weaken the very provisions of the RTI Act.