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Last Updated : Jul 24, 2019 12:45 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

RTI Amendment Bill to be taken up in Rajya Sabha: Here's what makes it controversial

Critics claim that the amendment will have negative effects and erode the independence of the institution

Nachiket Deuskar @PartTimeBowler

The Centre is expected to move the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill for consideration and passing in the Rajya Sabha on July 24.

The controversial bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha on July 22 amid strong opposition protests.

What is the bill about?

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The bill seeks to amend the Right to Information Act, 2005. Through the amendment, the government would be enabled to changing the term of Information Commissioners, determine and carry out deductions in their salaries.

It also changes the status of the Information Commissioners, who were on a par with Election Commissioners as per the original RTI Act.

Opposition’s charge

The Opposition took on the government over the proposed changes. United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi said the Centre is hell-bent on subverting the Act which, she said, now stands on the "brink of extinction".

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that it will end the independence of central and state information commissions.

Social activist Anna Hazare accused the Centre of betraying Indian citizens through the move.

Rejecting the Opposition's charge that the Bill would weaken the RTI Act, the government said it was fully committed to transparency and autonomy of the institution.

TMC Member of Parliament (MP) and National Spokesperson Derek O'Brien charged that the government used its "brute majority" in Lok Sabha to bulldoze the "faulty RTI Bill".

"Will not be surprised if government lists RTI Bill for passing in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. Be assured, we will do what it takes to preserve Parliamentary democracy. 14 Bills already passed with zero scrutiny by Parliament committees. Constructive Opposition can't be steamrolled,” O’Brien tweeted.

Why is it controversial?

This would mean that the Centre could effectively threaten the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and Information Commissioners with dismissal or reduction in salary. It could also lure them by term extensions.

This, critics claim, could help the government block uncomfortable RTI queries.

Critics also claim that the amendment would have negative effects and erode the independence of the institution.

Government’s response

Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), who introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha, said the Union government was only rectifying anomaly in the law that had been passed by the UPA government in 2005.

Singh said, "Probably, the then government of the day, in a hurry to pass the RTI Act, 2005, overlooked a lot of things. The Central Information Commissioner has been given the status of a Supreme Court judge but his judgments can be challenged in the high courts. How can that exist?"

"Besides, the RTI Act did not give the government rule-making powers. We are merely correcting these through the amendment," Singh added.

The RTI Act has been called a revolutionary step that empowered citizens seeking improved transference in governance.

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First Published on Jul 24, 2019 12:45 pm
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