New draft rules downgrade CIC and ICs, cut their tenure and perks

NEW DELHI : The Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners (ICs) may no longer enjoy five-year tenures and pay and perks similar to that of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners (ECs) as allowed under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

According to a fresh DoPT proposal, the terms of conditions of CIC, including her/ his pay and perks, should be the same as that of the Cabinet Secretary, which is significantly lower than that of the CEC. And those of the ICs will be similar to that of the Secretary to the Government of India.

The Government’s argument has been that these jobs have become sinecures for the favoured few but, clearly, these rules send a signal that the Information Commission isn’t quite high on its priority.

This may also mean that they will likely be downgraded in the ‘Table of Precedence’ several notches down from 9A where the CEC, Comptroller and Auditor General and Chairman, UPSC are placed, to position 23 occupied by the Secretary to the Government of India.

The ‘Table of Precedence’ is a protocol list prepared by the Ministry of Home Affairs and is based on the hierarchy and rank of government functionaries.

The government had amended the RTI Act in July this year allowing it to fix the tenure of CIC and ICs of the Centre and states, and also to lay down terms and conditions of service.

Sources said the draft rules prepared by the DoPT have now proposed that the CIC and the ICs will have a fixed tenure of three years only compared with five years now. The rules, once finalized by the DoPT, will need the approval of the Prime Minister, who is the minister in-charge of the department.

Sources said the CIC and ICs will be given the rank of Secretary to the Government of India, with the CIC being the “first among equals”.

While as per the original RTI Act, their pay and perks were that of CEC and ECs, respectively, they did not find a place in the ‘Table of Precedence’ at all. The office of the CIC had been pushing for a position in this table at the level of CEC.

At present, apart from salary, CICs and ICs avail of Rs 34,000 sumptuary allowances, rent-free full furnished accommodation on government cost, three LTCs per year and unlimited medical allowances for self, spouse and dependent children; post retirement, they are entitled for additional pension, telephone with 1,500 free per month calls at their residence and orderly allowances.

If the CIC is downgraded to the Cabinet Secretary rank, the sumptuary allowance will see a fall to Rs 10,000 per month. Further, the CIC would not be eligible for many other allowances available to CEC/ ECs.

Sources said for the state CIC, the draft rules propose pay and perks of the Secretary to the Government of India (or Chief Secretary of the State), and ICs of the state may get the pay and perks of Additional Secretaries to the government of India.

In July 2019, Parliament passed the Bill to amend Section 13 and Section 16 of the RTI Act to review the terms of the CIC/ICs of the Centre and states. The RTI Amendment Act said that the appointment will be “for such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government.” And that salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the CIC/IC “shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government.”