New Delhi, February 23: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre why it had not filed its response to a petition challenging the constitutional validity of amendments to the Right to Information Act despite being asked to do so in January last year.

“This is a very important matter,” remarked a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah, the Hindustan Times reported.

The petition challenging the RTI (Amendment) Act of 2019 and the RTI (Term of Office, Salaries, Allowances, and Other Terms and Conditions of Service) Rules 2019 was filed in the top court by senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Jairam Ramesh.

“Notice was issued on the petition on January 31, 2020. What have you been doing for over a year,” the bench remarked as advocate Kanu Agarwal, appearing on behalf of solicitor general Tushar Mehta, sought an adjournment to file a response by the Centre.

The bench said: “Having regard to the fact that this matter has been pending for over a year, let the reply be filed within a short period. List after two weeks.”

In January last year, the court had granted Centre four weeks’ time to file a response. Ramesh, in his petition, filed through advocate Sunil Fernandes submitted that the amendments to the RTI Act go against the objective sought to be achieved by the parent Act.

According to the petition, the amendments brought about by Parliament in July 2019 permitted the government to fix the tenure, salaries, allowances and terms of service of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners of the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions (SECs).

This was achieved under the Right to Information (Term of Office, Salaries, Allowances and Other Terms and Conditions of Service) Rules, 2019 by which the tenure of members of CIC and SICs had been reduced from five years to three. The Rules also affected the salaries of the Chief Information Commissioner and information commissioners.

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