UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday, in a statement, said that the Narendra Modi-led Centre is determined to subvert the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005. Her reaction came day after the Lok Sabha passed RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2019 on Monday.
In a statement issued by the Indian Nation Congress, Sonia criticised the Modi government in their attempt to dilute the independence of the Central Information Commissioner. Gandhi said in the statement that, "This law, prepared after widespread consultations and passed anonymously by Parliament, now stands on the brink of extinction."
Statement by Chairperson Congress Parliamentary Party Smt. Sonia Gandhi on the attempt by the BJP Govt. to dilute the independence of the Central Information Commissioner. pic.twitter.com/OW0m8lhWzs
" Congress (@INCIndia) July 23, 2019
The bill proposed to give the Centre the power to set the tenure and salaries of state and central Information Commissioners. Opposition has protested that such a move could dilute the effectiveness of the RTI Act, thereby threatening the autonomy of the Information Commissions.
A version of this Bill was originally notified for introduction in the monsoon session of Parliament in 2018. However, facing opposition from political parties and RTI activists, the Centre did not introduce the Bill then. The current law gives Information Commissioners a tenure of five years and salaries which match those of Election Commissioners, The Hindu reported.
Opposition parties, including the BJD, TMC and DMK opposed the bill. Even though the Shiv Sena supported the bill, they questioned the Centre about how they plan to strengthen the RTI.
Hitting out at Opposition MPs who said basic rights are being taken away by the amendments suggested by the RTI Bill, Jitendra Singh, Minister of State, Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension said that the current government has nothing to hide and the darkest hour for the country was during the Emergency period under Indira Gandhi.
Two lakh grievances were filed under the RTI Act in 2014, Singh informed the Lok Sabha, adding that the number rose to almost 16 lakh annually, due to the current government's commitment to resolving issues.
Shashi Tharoor objected to the RTI bill and seeked its withdrawal saying,"Are you bringing this amendment because an information commissioner asked the PMO to reveal the PM's educational details?"
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also opposed the Centre's move to amend the RTI Act, alleging that it will end the independence of central and states information commissions.
The RTI(Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed with 218 members voting in its favour and 79 against it after a reply by Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Jitendra Singh. Congress and other opposition parties also staged a walkout after division.
With inputs from agencies