LS passes RTI Amendment Bill amid strong objections by opposition

LS passes RTI Amendment Bill amid  strong objections by opposition

NEW DELHI, July 23: A bill proposing to give Centre the power to set the tenure and salaries of the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday amid strong objection from the opposition.
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was cleared after division of votes with 178 members voting in favour of the bill and 79 against it.
Slamming the government over the provisions of the bill, the opposition alleged that the bill has been brought to undermine the law and make the transparency panel a “toothless tiger” like the National Human Rights Commission.
Rejecting the criticism that the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is intended to weaken the Act, the government said the opposition is misguiding the people as the proposed changes are only aimed at streamlining functioning.
Leading the opposition charge during the debate on the Bill, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said that under the proposed changes the government can hire and fire independent information commissioners.
“It is not an Amendment bill but an elimination bill,” he said.
The Act was a monumental achievement for the country’s democracy and it challenged the vested interests of the government, the former Union minister said.
He questioned why the Bill has been brought “without any public consultation”.
“Why is the government desperate to rush through the bill? Is it because the Central Information Commission (CIC) delivered an order on the Prime Minister’s educational detail,” Tharoor asked.
He noted the four posts of information commissioners are lying vacant in CIC.
“The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is a deliberate attempt to undermine the Act and make it toothless tiger like National Human Rights Commission (NHRC),” Tharoor alleged.
Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh said that the opposition is “misguiding” the people by saying that the government wants to weaken the RTI Act ( by bringing the bill.
“From the beginning of its first term in 2014, the Modi government has brought transparency in governance for greater public participation,” Singh said.
“I urge the opposition to support the amendment so that we can streamline the functioning of the Act and remove anomalies,” he added.
A Raja (DMK) said due to the proposed amendments, the Information Commissioner is going to be a “house maid” (of the government).
Jagdambika Pal (BJP) said that the government wants to make the Act more effective.
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to give the government powers to fix salaries, tenures and other terms and conditions of employment of information commissioners. (Agencies)