Amendments to existing lawsLegislation Updates

The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 received President of India’s assent on 01-08-2019.

The Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019 will come into force by amending the Right to Information Act, 2005.

Major Highlights of the bill are:

  • Term of Office of the Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commissioner and State Chief Information Commissioner will be prescribed by the Central Government.
  • Salaries and Allowances along with other terms and conditions of service will also be prescribed by the Central Government

Following are the amendments introduced under the Act:

Section RTI Act, 2005 RTI (Amendment) Act, 2019
Section 13(1)

The Chief Information Commissioner shall hold office “for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office” and shall not be eligible for reappointment

The Chief Information Commissioner shall hold office “for such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government” and shall not be eligible for reappointment.

Section 13(2)

Every Information Commissioner shall hold office “for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office” or till he attains the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier, and shall not be eligible for reappointment as such Information Commissioner

Every Information Commissioner shall hold office “for such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government” or till he attains the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier, and shall not be eligible for reappointment as such Information Commissioner

Section 13(5)

Substitution of sub-section 5

“(5) The salaries and allowances payable to and other terms and conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government:

Provided that the salaries, allowances and other conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner or the Information Commissioners shall not be varied to their disadvantage after their appointment:

Provided further that the Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners appointed before the commencement of the Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019 shall continue to be governed by the provisions of this Act and the Rules made thereunder as if the Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019 had not come into force.”

Section 16 (1)

The State Chief Information Commissioner shall hold office “for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office” and shall not be eligible for reappointment.

The State Chief Information Commissioner shall hold office “for such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government” and shall not be eligible for reappointment.

Section 16(2)

Every State Information Commissioner shall hold office “for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office” or till he attains the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier, and shall not be eligible for reappointment as such State Information Commissioner

Every State Information Commissioner shall hold office “for such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government” or till he attains the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier, and shall not be eligible for reappointment as such State Information Commissioner

Section 16 (5) Sub-section (5) has been substituted

“(5) The salaries and allowances payable to and other terms and conditions
of service of the State Chief Information Commissioner and the State Information
Commissioners shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government:

Provided that the salaries, allowances and other conditions of service of the State Chief Information Commissioner and the State Information Commissioners shall not be varied to their disadvantage after their appointment:

Provided further that the State Chief Information Commissioner and the State Information Commissioners appointed before the commencement of the Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019 shall continue to be governed by the provisions of this Act and the Rules made thereunder as if the Right to Information (Amendment) Act, 2019 had not come into force.”

Section 27 Insertion of two new clauses, i.e.

  • (ca)
  • (cb)

(ca) the term of office of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners under sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 13 and the State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioners under sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 16;

(cb) the salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner and the Information Commissioners under sub-section (5) of Section 13 and the State Chief Information Commissioner and the State Information Commissioners under sub-section (5) of Section 16;


Ministry of Law and Justice

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Sahidullah Munshi, J. allowed a writ petition assigned before the Court on the request for reference by the Single Bench of the Court in a matter pertaining to arbitrary termination of service of the petitioner.

In the present case, the petitioner was an emeritus professor of the Hooghly Engineering and Technology College Service (HETCS), which had been formed under the provisions of the West Bengal University of Technology Act, 2000. The college was affiliated to the University namely, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad University. On 23-03-2018, a termination letter was issued to the petitioner by the Secretary, HETCS and it showed that petitioner’s service was no longer required and with it, one month’s advance salary of Rs 40,000 in lieu of one month’s notice was deposited in the petitioner’s account. Prior to this, on 26-09-2017, he was also issued a show cause notice by the then Principal of HETCS. The very authority of the show cause notice issued by the Principal was the basis for the cause of action in the present writ petition.

The petitioner contended that the Principle had no authority to initiate any proceeding against the petitioner for his removal as on the day when the letter was issued he was not the Principal; and secondly, the allegations made against the petitioner were bald, unfounded allegations which could never be proved against him.

Kallol Basu appearing for the Secretary challenged the maintainability of the writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution. He submitted that, “the institution is a private institution and having not been financed by the State it does not come within the purview of Article 12 of the Constitution and the writ proceeding is not maintainable.”

The Court held, “it is absolutely clear that Respondent 3/college received Government aid from the Government of West Bengal from time to time and thus there is no doubt that the said college comes within the purview of Article 12 of the Constitution and the writ petition can be held to be maintainable against any action of such college receiving Government aid.”

The Court also relied on the case of Andi Mukta Sadguru Shree Muktarjee Vandas Swami Suvarna Jayanti Mahotsav Smarak Trust v. V.R. Rudani, (1989) 2 SCC 691, where it was held, “The term “authority” used in the context, must receive a liberal meaning unlike the term in Article 12 which is relevant only for the purpose of enforcement of fundamental rights under Article 32.”  Thus, the writ petition was held maintainable.

Further, on the merits of the case, it was held, “In my view, all actions including the actions taken by the Secretary terminating the petitioner’s service are without jurisdiction and all actions taken against the petitioners have vitiated being unauthorised exercise of authority. The entire proceeding being unsustainable, the order of suspension and termination cannot remain alive and those are set aside.”

In the view of the above, the petitioner was entitled to his salaries (full salary from the day when he was placed under suspension) considering that no proceeding had been initiated against him.[Dr Sankar Prasad Mukherjee v. Maulana Abul Kalam Ajad University, 2019 SCC OnLine Cal 659, decided on 16-05-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Upholding the Constitutional validity of certain Amendments made to the Salaries, Allowances and Pensions of Members of Parliament Act, 1954, the bench of J. Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, JJ held that the expression “allowances” of MPs occurring under Entry 73 of List ­I of the Seventh Schedule is wide enough to cover the payment of “pension” and the other benefits covered by the impugned provisions to MPs or ex­-MPs. Even otherwise the authority of Parliament under Entry 97 of List ­I is wide enough to cover the impugned legislation.

Regarding the contention that the silence in Article 106 of the Constitution operates as a prohibition for payment of pension to the former MP, the Court said:

“The fact that there are express references to the payment of pension in the Constitution for certain Constitutional functionaries and not for others, in our opinion does not lead to the conclusion that   the   Constitution by its silence prohibits the payment of pension to those constitutional functionaries.”

It further said:

“if we were to accept the argument that those Constitutional functionaries who are entitled to pension by the text of the Constitution form a distinct class exclusively entitled to the payment of pension the result would be that the CAG, the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Parliament or State Legislature, and Ministers of the Centre and State would be disentitled to pension.”

The petitioner also argued that pension is payable to an employee of State after his superannuation.  Since MPs are not employees of State, they are not entitled for pension nor the Parliament is competent to provide payment of pension to the   ex­MPs. Rejecting the said argument, the Court said that presuming that pension is only payable to former employees of State and nobody else, is erroneous as there are various other categories of payments made by State which are called ‘pensions’, such as, Old Age Pension, Widow Pension, and Disability Pension etc.

The Court, however, ended the judgment by stating that:

“these questions are in the orbit of the wisdom of the Parliament in choosing/changing the legislative policy whether the various benefits created under the impugned provisions are rational having regard to the affluent financial status of some of the MPs or the poverty of the millions of the population etc.”

[Lok Prahari v. Union of India,  2018 SCC OnLine SC 379, decided on 16.04.2018]

Business NewsNews

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has clarified that the pension received by a taxpayer from his former employer is taxable under the head “Salaries”. The Finance Act, 2018 has amended Section 16 of the Income–tax Act, 1961(“the Act”) to provide that a taxpayer having income chargeable under the head “Salaries” shall be allowed a deduction of Rs 40,000 or the amount of salary, whichever is less, for computing his taxable income. Accordingly, any taxpayer who is in receipt of pension from his former employer shall be entitled to claim a deduction of Rs 40,000 or the amount of pension, whichever is less, under Section 16 of the Act.

Earlier pensioners were not able to enjoy any allowance on account of transport and medical expenses, but after this provision they will also get the benefit of this deduction. Consequently the present exemption in respect of these two allowances stands withdrawn from FY18-19. However, in case of differently-abled persons, the transport allowance at enhanced rate shall continue to be available.

Pension received by dependent family members (as legal heirs) of the retired individual is known as family pension and is considered as ‘income from other sources’. So, in case an employee passes away, then after his death the for the family pension, a standard deduction under Section 57 (iia) is available under which an amount of Rs 15,000 or 1/3rd of the uncommuted pension received, whichever is less, shall be exempt. Spouse, children below the age of 25 years, unmarried daughter and dependent parents in certain cases shall come under the definition of dependent family members.

[Press Release no. 1527822, dt. 05-04-2018]

Ministry of Finance