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Proposed panel to probe complaints against CIC a conspiratorial attempt to kill it: Ex-IC

PTI     April 2, 2019

New Delhi, Apr 2 (PTI) Former Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu has written to President Ram Nath Kovind against "conspiratorial attempt" of the government to "kill" the Central Information Commission through proposed committees under IAS officers to hear complaints against Information Commissioners. Taking note of reports, Acharyulu said the proposed panels would reduce the CIC to the level of a "glorified clerk without glory". "I request the President of India to save RTI by insulating CIC from these kinds of onslaughts from the government and their subordinate officers trying to prevent people from asking for embarrassing disclosures using RTI. This attempt is highly undemocratic, unconstitutional and smacks of high-level dictatorship and authoritarianism. This must be totally opposed," he said. Acharyulu termed the move to be against the Right to Information (RTI) Act, and violative of letter and spirit of the Constitution which gave independence to information tribunal. "It is a ridiculous proposal to make such 'officers' who are supposed to obey the directions of ICs and CIC, as superior authorities to inquire into the complaints against CICs. This is another conspiratorial attempt to kill the institution, which was asking the government offices to disclose the corruption and other cases against its officers," he wrote. The former Information Commissioner, who gave several landmark verdicts, including issuing notice to former RBI Governor for not obeying a Supreme Court order on following CIC directives, said Information Commissioners and Chief Information Commissioner have the power to direct and impose penalties on the Cabinet Secretary and other secretaries if they don't give information. "It is bureaucracy's desperate attempt to annex the transparency panel under their hierarchy," he said. He said the 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 ICs are at par with Election Commissioners, who in turn function at the level of Supreme Court judges. The CICs are appointed by the President on recommendation of the high-power committee led by PM, Cabinet Minister and leader of the opposition," he said. He said if the government appoints independent persons from different walks of life with cherished past of being transparent, there will be no complaints against CICs and no such committees will be necessitated. The Centre has proposed to form committees under cabinet secretary to look into complaints against Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners, a move seen as an attack on the independence of the transparency panel. The proposal sent to the Central Information Commission (CIC) by the Department of Personnel and Training was discussed in a meeting of the Commission on March 27 where all but one of the seven commissioners, including the chief, were present. It was unanimously opposed by the commissioners, and Chief Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava was urged to send a suitable reply to the government, sources privy to the development said. PTI ABS SMN

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