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RTI amendment Bill introduced in LS, ‘ amendment or elimination’ slams opposition

The RTI amendment Bill which proposes to give the Centre the power to set the tenure and salaries of state and central Information Commissioners, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Friday.

Opposition parties including Trinamool Congress, Congress, NCP, BSP and DMK opposed the introduction of Bill and staged walk-out. AIMIM member Asaduddin Owaisi demanded a division and the Bill was introduced after the government won with 224 in favour against 9 opposing it.

Union Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Dr Jitendra Singh introduced the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 which amends the Right to Information Act, 2005. Alleviating the doubts of the opposition members, Dr Singh said the intentions of the Modi government cannot be doubted.

This government believes in ‘transparency’ and ‘ease of governance’, he said. The Minister said the proposed Bill will streamline the act and strengthen the RTI structure. ‘The RTI Act came into being in a hurry. This is enabling legislature for administrative purpose. we have made the RTI process online,’ he said.

The Bill authorises the government to frame rules, he clarified, adding that ‘we are trying to modify a clumsy act’. Congress floor leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, member Shashi Tharoor and Trinamool member Saugata Roy raised objections to the introduction of the Bill.

Chowdhury said the proposed law violates fundamental rights and government intervention should not be there. Parliament Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said only the competence of the Bill should be discussed at this point and not the merits of the legislature.

Tharoor said the entire framework of the Bill violates the autonomy and independence of Information Commission.’This is not RTI amendment bill but RTI elimination bill,’ he said.

Owaisi said the bill lacks competence and it takes away the powers of the state.

The bill proposes to provide that the term of office of, and the salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions of service of, the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners and the State Chief Information Commissioner and the State Information Commissioners, “shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government.”

(UNI)