Central Information Commission

Central Information Commission
The Central Information Commission (CIC) is an autonomous body* established under the provisions of Chapter III, Section 12 (1) of the Right to Information Act (RTI) by the Central Government through an official Gazetted Notification in the year 2005.

CIC is not a constitutional body and it comes under the Ministry of Personnel and Training. It has jurisdiction over central government bodies, PSU and authorities.


Basic Facts

  • Established on October 12, 1995 (Vijayadashmi).
  • HeadquartersCIC Bhawan, New Delhi.
  • Total Members 11 (Chairman & 10 members).
  • Wajahat Habibullah
    First Chief Information Commissioner – Wajahat Habibullah.
  • First Woman to become Chief Information Commissioner  – Deepak Sandhu (2013).
  • Current Chief Information Commissioner – Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha.
  • First State to pass Right to Information Act – Tamil Nadu (2005).
  • First Country to pass Right to Information Act – Sweden (1766).

Right to information

Article 19 (1)(a) of the Indian Constitution declares the Right to Freedom of Speech, the Right to Publish, and the Right to Information as Fundamental Rights.

So the Right to information empowers the citizens to seek information from the government,  ie, a citizen can ask for the press documents, audio samples, videotapes, certified copies, emails, contracts, documents, files and records, any other material data which the public authority have.

However, the public authority can't mislead the citizens with falsified or hypothetical information. Thus providing more power to the democratic system by questioning against corruption by the high-level authorities.

We'll discuss in another post, the Right to Information Act, its advantages and limitations.

History

The first RTI movement was started in the early 1990s by the social activist, Aruna Roy (founder of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan NGO) in the Devdungri village in RajasthanIt was to fight against the corruption and exploitation done by the local government.

Following a series of demands for transparency in the workings of the public authorities, it was on June 15, 2005, the central government enacted the Right to Information Act.

It replaced the previous Freedom of Information Act, 2002 which did not include the right to information for the ordinary people, but for the people within central government circles.

Structure of CIC

The CIC is comprised of 11 members. Out of which one is Chief Information Commissioner, and the rest are Information Commissioners.
  • Appointed byPresident of India. 
  • Term3 years or till the age of 65 years.
  • Removed byPresident of India. (on Supreme Court inquiry and approval, in case of malpractices)
  • Selection Committee Members: (3 members, Section 12(3) RTI Act 2005)
    • Prime Minister (Head / Chairman),
    • Union Minister (appointed by the PM),
    • Leaders of the Opposition in Lok Sabha.

Qualifications for members of CIC

  • Should be a person with practical knowledge and experience in the fields of administration & governance, law, management, journalism, mass media, science & technology, and social service. (Section 12(5))
  • Shouldn't be members of the legislative assembly of any state or union territory. (Section 12(6))
  • Should not have any affiliation with political parties or hold any office of profit, own business or pursue any other profession. (Section 12(6))

RTI Amendment Act, 2019

The Right to Information Act (RTI) 2005 was amended in 2019 and it has much controversy associated with it. Details of the RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2019 are given below:
  • Bill Presented by – Jitendra Singh (Minister of State for Development of North Eastern region).
    • Presented on – 2019 July 19.
    • Passed by Lok Sabha – 2019 July 22.
    • Passed by Rajya Sabha – 2019 July 25.
    • President signed the Bill on – 2019 August 01.
    • Enforced as Act on – 2019 October 24.
  • The term of office was reduced from 5 to 3 years.
  • Salary for commission members was restructured as follows:
    • Chief Information Commissioner – ₹250000/-
    • Information Commissioner – ₹225000/-
So now the membership panel of the Central Information Commission consists of:
    1. Chief Information Commissioner (not eligible for re-election) &
    2. 10 Information Commissioners.
Currently (dated March 2021), CIC has one Chief Information Commissioner and seven Information Commissioners.

List of Chief Information Commissioners of CIC

The Former Chief Information Commissioners of CIC are as follows:

Sl. No.NameTerm
1

Wajahat Habibullah

26 Oct 2005 – 19 Sept 2010

2

A. N. Tiwari

30 Sept 201018 Dec 2010

3

Satyananda Mishra

19 Dec 20104 Sept 2013

4

Deepak Sandhu

5 Sept 2013 18 Dec 2013

5

Sushma Singh

19 Dec 201321 May 2014

6

Rajiv Mathur

22 May 2014 – 22 Aug 2014

7

Vijai Sharma

10 June 2015 – 1 Dec 2015

8

Radha Krishna Mathur

4 Jan 2016 4 Nov 2018

9

Sudhir Bhargava

1 Jan 2019 – 11 Jan 2020

10

Bimal Julka

19 Feb 2020 – 31 Oct 2020

11

Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha

7 Nov 2020 – Incumbent


Powers & Functions of CIC

As per Sections 18, 19, 20 & 25 of the RTI Act, 2005, the CIC has the following powers and functions, namely:
  • The commission can order inquiries into any matter if there are reasonable grounds.
  • Has the power to ensure compliance of its decisions to the public authority.
  • May recommend measures to promote such compliance if the public authority does not comply with this Act.
  • It is the duty of the commission to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person:
    • Who has not received a response to his information request within the specified time limits;
    • Who thinks information given is incomplete, misleading, or false and any other matter relating to obtaining information.
    • Who has not been able to submit an information request because of non-appointment of a Public Information Officer;
    • Who thinks the fees charged are unreasonable;
    • Who has refused information that was requested.
  • During the inquiry of a complaint, the commission may examine any record which is under the control of the public authority and no such record may be withheld from it on any grounds. In other words, all public documents must be submitted to the Commission during the course of the investigation for review.
  • While inquiring, the commission has the powers of a civil court.
Under Section 25 (1), the Central Information Commission submits its annual report to the Central Government and central govt. places this report before each House of Parliament.


📝SideNotes:

  • International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) – September 28.
  • Author of "My Years with Rajiv" & "My Kashmir: The Dying of the Light " – Wajahat Habibullah.
  • The states/UTs in India where the RTI Act is not applicable – Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

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