Concerns raised as Centre moves to amend RTI Law in Parl Session

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NEW DELHI, July 15: A bill to amend the 2005 law on Right to Information has been listed for passing for the monsoon session of parliament. While government sources earlier indicated that the bill is only meant to revise salaries of RTI officers, opposition parties and activists expressed concerns that it could weaken the landmark transparency law.
Under the 2005 law, the Chief Information Commissioner at the Centre gets the same salary as the Chief Election Commissioner. In the states, the salary of state Information Commissioners and the Election Commissioner are on par.
Government sources said the Department Of Personnel and Training had suggested it might not be a good practice to link the salaries of Information Commissioners to that of the Election Commissioners, since the Election Commission was a constitutional body responsible for free and fair elections. In contrast, the Information Commission is a statutory body formed to look into complaints and requests for information under the RTI.
According to activists, a move to bring the salaries of RTI officers under the central and state governments, instead of the Parliament, may prove to be a coercive measure which may influence the freedom of officials to make decisions that go against the government.
RTI activist Anjali Bharadwaj has sought information from the Department of Personnel and Training on the proposed bill, through an RTI. In its response, the DoPT, however, said the bill is under consideration, because of which further information could not be provided.
Activists have criticised this lack of transparency and public consultation before the introduction of the bill. “We will be holding protests once the session starts against any amendment to this crucial act,” said Ms. Bharadawaj.
Sources said the government had initially contemplated an ordinance, but finally decided against it in view of possible opposition to the move.
The amendment bill has been listed for “introduction, consideration and passing” in the monsoon session of parliament, which will be held from July 18 to August 10. Eighteen new bills have been listed for introduction in this session, which is expected to have 18 working days.
The opposition parties are yet to chalk out their plan of action, though the Left parties said they will raise the issue of increasing number of mob killings in house.
The ruling Telugu Desam Party of Andhra Pradesh will again pitch for a no-confidence motion against the government over its demand for special category status for the state.
The second half of the budget session of parliament was hugely disrupted due to a push for four no confidence motions against the government, which could not make any progress following constant protests by the AIADMK and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi. (NDTV)