SC notice to Centre on Cong MP's plea against RTI Act

SC seeks Centre's reply on Jairam Ramesh's plea challenging validity of amended RTI Act

 Senior Congress leaders Randeep S Surjewala, Jairam Ramesh. (PTI Photo)

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre on a plea by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh seeking a declaration that the 2019 amendment into the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005 was ultra vires of the main transparency law as it allowed the Union government to fix tenures of the Information Commissioners and determine their salaries, leading to complete “destruction of their independence”.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and K M Joseph sought a response within four weeks on the petition which claimed the amendment allowed “unbridled and uncannalised discretionary power to the central government that jeopardised independence of Information Commissioners”.

Advocate Sunil Fernandes, representing the lawmaker, contended the amendment passed by Lok Sabha amid protests by the Opposition in July, 2019, made the tenure of Information Commissioner “solely subject to the will of central government and their salaries at the its sole pleasure”.

Maintaining that there was “no rational nexus with the object of the Act”, the petitioner claimed the amendment was “vitiated by non-application of mind and motivated by extraneous considerations so as to negate, stultify and virtually render ineffective the constitutionally guaranteed righ to information under Article 19 of the Constitution”.

The petitioner said the amendment deserved to be struck down as its real object was to denude the authorities under the RTI Act of "their independence and impartiality".