New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Thursday decried the Modi government's final assault to decimate the Right to Information (RTI) Act promulgated by the Congress-led UPA government in 2005, empowering citizens to tackle corruption and question effectiveness of government policies.
In a statement issued here, she said: "No secret that the Modi government has seen this remarkable institution as an obstacle to enforcing its majoritarian agenda without being held accountable to people."
Pointing out how several offices of the information commissioners remained vacant for the majority of the Modi government's first term and the post of the chief information commissioner kept vacant for 10 months, she said: "To further erode and dilute its effectiveness, the Modi government has passed amendments diminishing the office of the information commissioner in a manner that it leaves them at the mercy of the very government is is required to hold accountable."
She said the Congress had opposed the amendments in Parliament and will continue to oppose them in practice. "We condemn this piecemeal destruction of our democratic institutions and will continue to fight the Modi government in these self-serving actions which are the very opposite of the national interest," she stressed.
The information commissioner's term of office is now at the discretion of the central government with a ceiling of three years unlike the 2005 law giving them fixed five years to ensure independence from executive interference and intimidation. And still worse, their salaries, allowances and terms of conditions that were at par with the election commissioners shall now be prescribed by the central government, meaning they can be changed whenever the government so desires.
Sonia said: "Any official who allows the release of information against the Government can now be swiftly removed or simply not continued in office. This will have a chilling effect on all Information Commissioners - Central and State."
She said the changes ensure that no senior self-respecting official would agree to work under such monitored circumstances as the information commissioners shall not be free from interference and signalling by the Modi government. She said this will allow the government appoint submissive officials "who don't mind serving at the pleasure of the state and who will not quesstion the governments finds inconvenience to answer."