In rejig of info commission, govt may downgrade CIC, ICs’ status
The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at present get a status equivalent to Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners, respectively. This, in turn, means they have the status similar to that of the judges of the top court.india Updated: Jun 10, 2018 23:27 IST
The Centre may downgrade the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC)’s status to that of the union cabinet secretary as it plans to rejig the Central Information Commission’s terms of conditions of service, senior officials said on Sunday.
The Information Commissioners (IC) of the states and the Centre will also be reduced to the status of the government secretaries, added the officials.
Currently, the CIC and ICs are at par with the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners, respectively. In other words, they enjoy the status of Supreme Court (SC) judges.
The powers and responsibilities of the commissioners would, however, remain unchanged, they added. The CIC and ICs at present get a status equivalent to Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners, respectively. This, in turn, means they have the status similar to that of the judges of the top court.
A government’s note on this issue, circulated last week, which has been seen by HT, points out that “Equating CIC/IC to Supreme Court judges is anomalous on several counts.”
Senior government officials said that the Centre has started internal discussions to appropriately adjust the terms of conditions of service for CIC/ICs. One section feels they should be brought at the level of the secretaries of the government of India.
When the news of the proposed changes first broke in April, it had been criticised by Right to Information (RTI) activists, who said it would “weaken” the Central Information Commission.
On Sunday, two former CICs expressed reservation to the government’s proposed move. “If such a move is made, the functioning and neutrality of the CIC will be affected. There was a reason why the CIC and ICs were given the status of CEC and SC judges. I don’t see what purpose will be fulfilled by downgrading the status. Moreover, such downgrading will not be in the interest of the commission as the CIC was conceived to be a neutral organisation under the law,” said Wajahat Habibullah, India’s first CIC.
Another former CIC, Sushma Singh, said, “Downgrading the salaries of the CIC and ICs will definitely affect the functioning of the commission. CIC needs to have a kind of that authority and independence as that of an independent regulator.”
The commission, set up under the RTI Act, was established in 2005 as an authorised body.
The note lists eight reasons to show the “anomalies” in the CIC and ICs getting the status that is currently accorded to them.
It says that the SC and the EC were created by the Constitution while the Information Commission was created by statute. It also says that orders of the top court are considered final and becomes the law of the land but CIC’s decisions can be challenged in courts.
According to a DoPT circular, the salaries of CIC and ICs were revised in April 2009 and were increased to Rs 90,000 per month, at par with salaries drawn by SC judges and the CEC and the ECs.