[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ORMER Central Information Commissioner (CIC),M Sridhar Acharyulu, has written an open letter to the Chief Ministers of Telengana, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa questioning the support they and their party MPs gave to the RTI (Amendment) Bill 2019 in the Rajya Sabha and describing it as a surrender of the sovereign powers of state governments to power in Delhi.
The support of MPs from the ruling parties of the three states ultimately led to the passage of the Bill in Parliament on July 25, 2019.
Listing out a set of eight questions that he urged the three Chief Ministers – K Chandrasekhar Rao (TRS-Telangana), Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy (YSRCP-Andhra Pradesh) andNaveen Patnaik (Biju Janata Dal- Orissa) – to consider, the former CIC, in the letter sent by email wondered whether they or their MPs had even understood the adverse implications the changes to the Right to Information Act would have on the sovereign powers of states under the Constitution of India.
“Please try to take assistance of your legal teams and find how your support to this Bill will kill your sovereign powers at least now, which you should have done before supporting it. You have a duty to answer these questions, morally, legally (as Section 4(1)(c) of RTI Act mandates), constitutionally (Federal principles) and politically (as you have proclaimed that you would form a front and fight for the rights of the states, against the centralization of powers by the Union),” Acharalu said.
Urging the Chief Ministers to release detailed statements explaining their compulsions behind supporting what he described as “an unconstitutional Bill which destroys the independence of Information Commissioners”, Acharyulu cautioned, “Remember, you are answerable and accountable to the people of your state.”
The eight questions are:
- Do you know the three Honourable Chief Ministers, that the Bill kills independence of not only the Central Information Commissioners but also the Information Commissioners in your states also?
- Do you know that when your MPs voted for this Bill, they have laid at the feet of the Central Government the liberty, autonomy and sovereignty of the people you are legitimately expected to represent for no reason, which is totally against the norms and principles of federalism?
- Do you know that this kind of most unjustified and unconstitutional surrender of your sovereigntyto powers of Delhi, with specific reference to your powers of appointing an information Commissioner will disable you from determining the term and status of your own Commissioners?
- Do you know that this is beginning of surrender of your powers at Delhi Sultans at the detriment of interests of your own people and contrary to the basic structure of the Indian Constitution?
- Do you know that the RTI was helping the millions of people to empower themselves, resolve the grievances through just a ten-rupee RTI application and preventing small corruption in thousands of small Government offices and thus performing the job of good governance, perhaps which you are trying to give in these three states?
- Do you know that the Government of India did not place before the Parliament any information about what kind of demotion in status they want, what term they want to fix and what salary they propose to give is to Commissioners at Centre or Commissioners in your states? Have you read that the Bill says their term will be ‘as prescribed by the Centre’, and did they tell you what they are going to prescribe? Did you ask your party MPs to support Bill without knowing what will be the status of your future Information Commissioners? Are you happy about it? Do you think your people will not be ashamed of this bankrupt situation where their Chief Ministers do not know the status of Information Commissioners of their states tomorrow?
- What is that you have achieved by this support to this unconstitutional, anti-democratic and anti-federal Bill?
- Was there any fear or apprehension you are suffering from? Among the three of you only one has some charges against him pending, then why other two were worried about Centre?What compelled you three to surrender your sovereignty to Delhi sultanate?