Supreme Court displeased with govt not filing reply to plea challenging RTI Act changes

The Supreme Court Monday made evident its displeasure at the government not filing a reply to a plea challenging the amendments made to the Right to Information Act, 2005 and the Rules made thereunder in 2019 though the notice was issued in the matter over a year ago.

“It’s been a year. How have you not filed a reply yet?”Justice D Y Chandrachud, heading a two-judge bench, said as the plea by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh came up for hearing and the Centre’s counsel sought two more weeks’ time.

The bench, also comprising Justice M R Shah, recalled that the notice was issued in January 2020 and that it challenges the vires of the Act.

Justice Shah too wondered why the government had not yet filed any reply and observed that its a very important matter.

Soon after the development, Ramesh tweeted, “The Modi Govt undermined the sanctity of the RTI Act in 2019 through amendments. Then when I challenged it in Supreme Court, the Govt failed to respond to the Court’s notice for more than a year! I hope that the Govt will take this matter seriously at least now.”

The court allowed the Centre’s request for two more weeks’ time to file a reply.

Ramesh’s plea contended that under the amendments, the fixed five-year tenure of the Central and state election commissioners has been altered to tenure to be prescribed by the central government which has also been bestowed with powers to prescribe the salaries and allowances of state information commissioners. He argued that this will compromise the independence of the Information Commission constituted under the Act which is “a salutary piece of legislation aimed at promoting transparency in public administration and empowering the common citizen”.

“The Government feels threatened by the authorities under RTI that are not answerable to it and hence, the real purpose of the impugned amendments is to clip the independence and impartiality of the authorities under the Act,” said the plea.

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