- Statutory organizations.
- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.
Committees to hear and decide on complaints against CIC and ICs
What to study?
- For Prelims: About CIC and ICs- appointment, eligibility and other related key facts.
- For Mains: Issues related to appointment of CIC and issues of transparency in appointment, proposed committees and issues associated with them.
Context: The Centre is planning to setup bureaucrat-led committees to hear and decide on complaints against the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs). This move has evoked sharp criticism from Right to Information (RTI) activists and former Information Commissioners.
The proposed change would be in contravention to the current Right To Information (RTI) law and therefore is being seen by the CIC as “an attempt to erode its independence and undermine its role.”
Concerns and issues associated with this move:
Central Information Commission must function autonomously without being subjected to directions by any other authority under this Act (Section 12(4) or RTI Act). The committees proposed are not authorities under this Act. Government cannot create any such authority in the absence of any enabling provision in the Act.
What can be done?
The current proposal under discussion creates issues of conflict of interest. A possible solution, though there can be more, is the creation of a committee which will be comprised of one member from every party represented in either House to examine complaints against information officers of a serious nature.
- These may be vetted and screened for removal of frivolous or baseless allegations by another committee of MPs who are elected as Independents. The removal of these complaints should also be time-bound and designed such that there is no domination of treasury benches.
- There also needs to be a better process to handle complaints against these people but the complaints should be done within the commission itself and the finding should be published on the website.
- Of course, if there is a recording of every proceeding, it will go a long way in handling this kind of issue.
Current checks and balances- Section 14 in The Right To Information Act, 2005:
- Subject to the provisions of sub‑section (3), the Chief Information Commissioner or any Information Commissioner shall be removed from his office only by order of the President on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity after the Supreme Court, on a reference made to it by the President, has, on inquiry, reported that the Chief Information Commissioner or any Information Commissioner, as the case may be, ought on such ground be removed.
- The President may suspend from office, and if deem necessary prohibit also from attending the office during inquiry, the Chief Information Commissioner or Information Commissioner in respect of whom a reference has been made to the Supreme Court under sub‑section (1) until the President has passed orders on receipt of the report of the Supreme Court on such reference.
- Notwithstanding anything contained in sub‑section (1), the President may by order remove from office the Chief Information Commissioner or any Information Commissioner if the Chief Information Commissioner or a Information Commissioner, as the case may be:
- is adjudged an insolvent; or
- has been convicted of an offence which, in the opinion of the President, involves moral turpitude; or
- engages during his term of office in any paid employment outside the duties of his office; or
- is, in the opinion of the President, unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body; or
- has acquired such financial or other interest as is likely to affect prejudicially his functions as the Chief Information Commissioner or a Information Commissioner.
- If the Chief Information Commissioner or an Information Commissioner is, in any way, concerned or interested in any contract or agreement made by or on behalf of the Government of India or participates in any way in the profit thereof or in any benefit or emolument arising therefrom otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company, he shall, for the purposes of sub‑section (1), be deemed to be guilty of misbehaviour.
Sources: the hindu.