Modi diluting information commissioners' powers: Sonia

Congress President Sonia Gandhi pays floral tribute to former prime minister Indira Gandhi on her death anniversary at Shakti Sthal. PTI

Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Thursday hit out at the Modi government, accusing it of launching a “final assault” on the Right to Information Act implemented by the UPA government to make governance transparent.

Sonia's attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi came a week after the Centre notified the amendments to the RTI Act that allowed the government to curtail the tenures of Information Commissioners and decide salaries for them.

“The BJP government has now launched its final assault to decimate RTI. To further erode and dilute its effectiveness, the Modi government has passed amendments which diminish the office of the information commissioner in a manner that it leaves them at the mercy of the very government it is required to hold accountable,” she said in a statement here.

She said the RTI Act was historic legislation that gave birth to an institution that in the last 13 years has become a “sentinel of democracy, transparency, and accountability to the common man.”

“We have opposed these 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 to national interest,” said Gandhi, who as Chairperson of the National Advisory Council, played a key role in the drafting of the legislation.

Gandhi said RTI activists across the country have used the law to tackle corruption, to measure the effectiveness of government policies and to illuminate the deficiencies in processes such as demonetisation and elections.

She said the Modi government has seen this remarkable institution as an obstacle to enforcing their majoritarian agenda without being held accountable to the people.

By reducing the benefits for these important posts, the Modi government has ensured that no senior self-respecting official would agree to work under such monitored circumstances, Gandhi claimed.

“These amendments will also ensure that no Information Commissioner shall be free from interference and signalling by the Modi Government. Above all, this will allow the Modi government to appoint submissive officials, who don't mind serving at the pleasure of the state and who will not allow questions the government finds inconvenient to answer,” the Congress President said.

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