The Centre has notified the rules pertaining to the term, salaries, allowances and conditions of service of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commission (SIC) namely, the Right to Information (Term of Office, Salaries, Allowances and Other Terms and Conditions of Service of Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commissioners in the Central Information Commission, State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioners in the State Information Commission) Rules, 2019.
The salient features of the Rules are:
The tenure of CICs as well as ICs of both the Central Commission and the State Commission will be of 3 years. Prior to these Rules, the Commissioners had a term of 5 years.
The Central Chief Information Commissioner shall receive a fixed amount of Rs. 2,50,000 per mensem while the Central Information Commissioner, State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioners shall receive a fixed amount of Rs. 2,25,000, per mensem.
However, in case these persons are in receipt of any pension or other retirement benefits from their previous positions, the pay of such Commissioners shall be reduced by the amount of that pension/ benefit.
The Commissioners shall be entitled to dearness allowance, leave travel concession, travelling allowance and daily allowance as admissible to an officer holding a post carrying the same pay in the Central Government or the State Government, as the case may be.
They will also be entitled to claim medical facilities as provided in the Central Service (Medical Attendance) Rules, 1944.
The Commissioners will also be eligible to the use of official residence from the general pool accommodation of the type as admissible to an officer holding a post carrying the same pay in the Central Government or the State Government, as the case may be, on the payment of the license fee as prescribed. However, in case of non-availability of such accommodation, they shall be entitled to applicable House Rent Allowance.
Earlier, the salary and allowances of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners were same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners respectively, fixed as per provisions of the Constitution. The RTI Act had consciously given Information Commissioners status and privileges equal to Election Commissioner in order to ensure that they function independently and autonomously.
However, empowering the Central government to change the fixed term of the Information Commissioners, and make their pay and service conditions subject to the executive rules to be made by the government, has been criticized widely, for it is believed that the same will strike at the "root of their independence".
The Central Government has withheld the power w.r.t to decisions on conditions of service for which no express provision has been made in these rules. Such matters shall be referred to the Central Government for its decisions, on a case to case basis.
These Rules have been notified in pursuance of the Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019 which was passed by the Parliament in July, 2019 and notified by the Central govt. on August 1. The Amendment Act, particularly Sections 13, 16 and 27 prescribed that the term, salaries, allowances and conditions of service of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commission (SIC), will be determined by Central govt.
The Rules have however been notified after a delay of almost 3 months, drawing much criticism. Recently, at a public meeting, former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Madan Lokur had said that the Act was vital for seeking information of public importance and that the law will "continue to suffer" until the government makes the said rules.
Read Rules Here