POLITY & GOVERNANCE
- Central government has notified the rules for the amended Right to Information Act, 2005, for fixing tenure, salaries and service conditions of information commissioners in Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions (SICs).
- The Right to Information Rules, 2019 will be applicable on all new appointments.
- The RTI Act was amended by the Centre in July 2019 to alter the tenure and terms of service of the information commissioners as it intended to do away with the parity enjoyed by them with the Chief Election Commissioner and election commissioners as per the original Act.
- The government had not issued the prescribed rules for nearly three months after the amendment received the President’s assent on August 1, 2019.
- The tenure of Central and State Information Commissioners has been reduced to three years from the earlier five years.
- The salaries have been fixed at Rs 2.5 lakh for Chief Information Commissioner and Rs 2.25 lakh for Information Commissioners in Chief Information Commission.
- The salaries have been fixed at Rs 2.25 lakh for State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioners.
- In all other matters relating to dearness allowance, leave, accommodation, leave travel concession and encashment of unutilized leave at the time of retirement, Chief ICs and the SICs have been equated with serving bureaucrats who are placed in the same pay grade.
- It means that Chief Information Commissioner in CIC is equated with a cabinet secretary while all other commissioners have been equated with bureaucrats of the same grade in the service of the central or state government, respectively.
- There is no change to the maximum age limit of 65 years and to the provisions regulating reappointment, as these provisions were not amended.
- Rule 22 states that the central government has the power to relax the provisions of any of the rules in respect of any class or category of persons.
Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019
- The amendment proposed that the appointment will be “for such term as may be prescribed by the central governmen“
- The amendment provides for salaries to be prescribed by the Centre.
- The RTI Rules, 2019 has come nearly three months after the amendments were passed amid protests by rights activists.
- The rules made by the central government have done away with the protection of stature of commissioners.
- These rules will effectively make information commissions function like ‘caged parrots’.
- Commissioners will potentially be wary of giving directions to disclose information that the central government does not wish to provide.
- Rule 22 gives the Centre power to relax the provisions of any of the rules in respect of any class or category of persons.
- This raises serious concerns that the government could potentially invoke these powers to determine different tenures for different commissioners at the time of appointment and use it as a means to exercise control and influence.
- As per Rights Activists, the rules had been drafted and promulgated in a “completely surreptitious manner in flagrant violation” of the procedures laid down in the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy of 2014.
[Source: The Hindu, Economic Times, prsindia.org]
- President Ram Nath Kovind has announced the appointment of Lieutenant Governors in the newly formed Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.
- He also announced the appointment of two new Governors in the states of Mizoram and Goa.
Newly appointed Governors/ Lieutenant Governors
- Satya Pal Malik – Governor of Goa
- S. Sreedharan Pillai – Governor of Mizoram
- Radha Krishna Mathur – Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh
- Girish Chandra Murmu – Lieutenant Governor of Jammu-Kashmir
- Article 153 says that there shall be a Governor for each state.
- 7th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1956 facilitated the appointment of the same person as governor of two or more states.
- Constitutional heads of Union Territories are called Lieutenant Governors.
The Governor of a State shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
The only qualifications for appointment as Governor are that he should be a citizen of India and must have completed the age of thirty-five years.
The oath of office to the governor is administered by the chief justice of concerned HC and in his absence by the senior-most judge of the HC available.
- The Governor acts in ‘Dual Capacity’ as the Constitutional head of the state and as the representative.
- He is the constitutional head of the state, bound by the advice of his council of ministers.
- He functions as a vital link between the Union Government and the State Government.
- He is a Representative of the President (Union Government or Central Government) in the State.
- Governor holds office for a term of 5 years.
- However this term of five years is subject to the pleasure of the President.
- He may be removed by the President at any time.
- The Constitution does not lay down any ground upon which a Governor may be removed.
- He is only `appointed’ by the President, and not `elected.’
- Though he is the head of the executive and the legislature, the people of the State have no voice in his appointment.
- The manner of the appointment and the uncertainty of tenure tend to make the Governor an object of the Central government in politically charged circumstances.
- Governor’s discretionary powers to invite the leader of the largest party/alliance, post-election, to form the government has often been misused to favour a particular political party.
[Source: PIB, The Hindu]
- India and Pakistan signed an agreement to operationalise the Kartarpur corridor that will facilitate pilgrims from India to visit the Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan.
- The agreement is valid initially for five years.
What is Kartarpur corridor?
- Government of India has passed a resolution in November 2018 for the construction of Kartarpur Sahib Corridor to celebrate the occasion of 550th Birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak.
- The 2 km corridor is being built to connect Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur (India) with Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur (Pakistan), the final resting place of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak.
Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, Kartarpur
- It stands on the bank of the River Ravi, about 120 km northeast of Lahore.
- It was here that the First Sikh Guru (Nanak Dev) assembled a Sikh community and lived for 18 years until his death in 1539.
Highlights of the Agreement
- Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the corridor and the travel will be Visa Free.
- Pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport and the persons of Indian Origin need to carry OCI card along with the passport of their country.
- The Corridor is open from dawn to dusk. Pilgrims travelling in the morning will have to return on the same day.
- The Corridor will be operational throughout the year, except on notified days, to be informed in advance.
- Pilgrims will have a choice to visit as individuals or in groups, and also to travel on foot.
- India will send the list of pilgrims to Pakistan 10 days ahead of travel date. Confirmation will be sent to pilgrims 4 days before the travel date.
- The Pakistan has assured India to make sufficient provision for ‘Langar’ and distribution of ‘Prasad’.
Issue of Service charge
- The main issue that has been a point of discussion was the insistence of Pakistan to levy $20 as service charge per pilgrim per visit.
- India has consistently urged Pakistan to not levy any fee on the pilgrims.
- India has stressed that this is not in consonance with the religious and spiritual sentiments of Indian pilgrims.
- India has shared its deep disappointment with Pakistan for its refusal to waive the fee.
- While the Agreement has been signed, Government of India will continue to put pressure on the Government of Pakistan to reconsider its insistence on levying the fee.
FACTS OF THE DAY
THOTLAKONDA BUDDHIST MONASTERY
- Recently, the Mahastupa of the Buddhist heritage site of Thotlakonda, which was reconstructed in 2016 by the Andhra Pradesh State Archaeology Department, has collapsed during the torrential rainfall.
- It is situated near Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.
- It is 2000 years old monastic complex with remnants of stupas, chaitya grihas and viharas atop Thotlakonda Hill, Andhra Pradesh.
- Thotlakonda was well within the influence of ancient Kalinga, which was an important source of dissemination of Buddhism to Sri Lanka and various parts of Southeast Asia.
CHENANI-NASHRI TUNNEL RENAMED AFTER SHYAMA PRASAD MUKHERJEE
- Central Government has renamed Chenani-Nashri tunnel on National Highway 44 in Jammu & Kashmir as Dr. Syama Prasad Mukherjee Tunnel.
- The ‘Chenani-Nashri Highway Tunnel’ is not only India’s longest highway tunnel but also Asia’s longest bi-directional highway tunnel.
- The tunnel is 9 km long officially making it the longest road tunnel in India.
- It is a two-lane main tunnel with a parallel escape tunnel of the same length located at an elevation of 1200 meters.
- The tunnel, bypassing snow-bound upper reaches, reduces the journey time by two hours and provides a safe, all-weather route to commuters travelling from Jammu and Udhampur to Ramban, Banihal and Srinagar.
- The key features of the tunnel are — it is a single-tube bi-directional tunnel, with a 9.35-metre carriageway, and a vertical clearance of 5 metres.
- It was built at the cost of ₹2,600 crore.