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Public consultation? Govt of India 'didn't consult' even CIC before amending RTI Act

By Our Representative
Information accessed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act shows that the Central Information Commission (CIC) was not consulted before amending the RTI Act in July this year or subsequently when the rules made to implement it. Revealing this, senior RTI activist Anjali Bharadwaj has said, "CIC has confirmed, in response to an RTI application, that the government did not seek its comments."
The RTI Act's sections 13, 16 and 27 which were amended this July, empower the Central government to prescribe rules to decide tenure, salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the chief and other information commissioners of CIC and all state information commissions (SICs).
The government brought in amendments to the RTI Act, despite protests across the country and opposition from several political parties. There were no public consultations on the amendments and the bill was not referred to a Parliamentary deliberative committee for detailed discussions.
Pointing out that the rules were also "not put through any process of public consultation", Bharadwaj said, "The surreptitious manner in which the amendments were brought, and the rules promulgated, constitutes a violation of the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy of 2014 which requires all draft rules to be placed in the public domain for comments/suggestions of people."
Further, she said, "Section 4(1)(c) of the RTI Act puts an obligation on the government to publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affect the public".
During the debate in Rajya Sabha on the Amendment Bill, the concerned minister, Dr Jitendra Singh, responding to why there were no public consultations, had said, when the Act was being formulated in mid-2000s, these took place because the government was dealing with the "RTI's gamut, its spectrum".
However, during the recent amendment, he asserted. the government was dealing with "certain functionaries" and the question of salary etc. "between the government and the officers, not the public."

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