Oppn blasts RTI amendments amid LS nod

Oppn blasts RTI amendments amid LS nod

Though the government sought to dispel “the apprehensions and misgivings” of the members, assuring that the proposed amendments to the RTI Act were not intended to dilute the powers, the opposition remained unconvinced and staged a walkout.

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the controversial Right to Information (RTI) Act amendment bill even as the Opposition parties questioned the government's hurry in rushing the bill, which they termed as “regressive” and a "deliberate attempt" to undermine it.

Though the government sought to dispel “the apprehensions and misgivings” of the members, assuring that the proposed amendments to the RTI Act were not intended to dilute the powers, the opposition remained unconvinced and staged a walkout.

They wanted the government to either withdraw the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 or refer it to a parliamentary standing committee for its scrutiny.

The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, takes away the stature of information commissioners from equivalent of election commissioners, with their salaries and service conditions to be specified by the government.

Earlier, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh, who had moved the bill for its passage, said the section on autonomy would remain untouched.

“Let's not assume that we will start throttling or putting pressure (on the information commissioners with the passage of the bill). Section 12 (4) of the Act which deals with autonomy remains untouched. Appointments will be done in the same manner,“ said the minister, adding the proposed amendments were only intended to weed out “anomalies” in the law and “streamline” the functioning of the information commissioners.

Participating in the debate, Congress member Shashi Tharoor said that under the proposed amendments the government can “hire and fire” the independent information commissioners.

"It is not RTI Amendment bill but RTI elimination bill," he said.

He dubbed the bill as “a deliberate attempt” of the government to undermine the RTI Act and make it “toothless tiger” like the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

“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.

DMK member A Raja termed the Bill a "dark day for democracy".