Govt murders RTI, tweets Rahul Gandhi, days after bill passes Rajya Sabha test

The Congress bristled at the bill, which changes the tenure and salaries of key bureaucrats tasked with providing information, but the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) sailed through by managing to enlist the support of a few neutral regional parties.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday attacked the Modi government for “diluting” the Right to Information Act, days after amendments to the act were passed by Parliament amid strong protests by opposition parties.

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed a bill proposing amendments to Right to Information Act. The Narendra Modi government then cleared a major legislative hurdle in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday when it managed to pass the amendments in the Upper House despite having fewer numbers than the Opposition.

“Government is diluting RTI in order to help the corrupt steal from India. Strange that the normally vociferous anti-corruption crowd has suddenly disappeared,” Gandhi said in a tweet, using the hashtag “GovtMurdersRTI”.

The bill was passed by a “voice vote”. However, the government faced voting for the first time in its current tenure when the Opposition demanded that its motion to send the bill to a select committee for further scrutiny be put to vote. The motion was defeated “117 versus 95, subject to correction”, deputy chairman Harivansh said.

The Congress bristled at the bill, which changes the tenure and salaries of key bureaucrats tasked with providing information, but the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) sailed through by managing to enlist the support of a few neutral regional parties: the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).

The bill changes the fixed five-year term of chief information commissioner and information commissioners provided for in the Right to Information Act, 2005, and states that states that the central government will notify the term of office of these officials.

The bill also states that the salaries, allowances and other terms of service of these officials will now be determined by the central government, as against the 2005 Act that says the salary of the chief information commissioner and information commissioners at the central level will be equivalent to that of the chief election commissioner and election commissioners; and the salary of the chief information commissioner and information commissioners at the state level equivalent to that of the election commissioners and the chief secretary to the state government.

During the debate, the Congress and several opposition parties said changing the fixed term of information commissioners amounted to weakening the landmark RTI Act.

“Please rest assured that this legislation is without any motivation and in good faith. There are a number of other tribunals that have been harmonised over the last few months. The independence and autonomy of the information commissions will not be interfered with,” minister of state in the PMO Jitendra Singh said, adding that the bill was meant to streamline the administrative process.

One of the reasons offered by the government for bringing the bill was that the existing Act treated chief information commissioners on a par with chief election commissioners. However, the election commission was a constitutional body while the information commissions were only statutory bodies.

Source: Hindustan Times

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