NEW DELHI: The RTI Amendment Bill 2019, which was introduced in Parliament on Friday, has ruffled a few feathers. The Bill will allow the Centre to decide the salary and service conditions of the Central and state information commissioners and also seeks to take away the stature of information commissioners from the equivalent of election commissioners.
The move received stern protests by the Opposition members inside the Lok Sabha and was equally criticized by RTI activists. Both, the Opposition members as well as RTI activists have claimed that the Bill is an attempt to take away the autonomy of the institution. While protesting during the introduction of the Bill, Congress leader of the House, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said, “The amendments to the legislation can prove to be dangerous to the fundamental rights of the citizens.” He quoted a standing commission report that said that it will undermine and pressurise the Information Commission. Shashi Tharoor of the Congress called the Bill “RTI elimination Bill”.
Asaduddin Owaisi, AIMIM said that the Bill lacks competence because it undermines the powers of the State. While 224 members supported its introduction, nine opposed it. Before the division was sought, Saugata Roy (TMC) demanded that the Bill to be referred to the parliamentary standing committee. Earlier, introducing the Bill, minister Jitendra Singh said no one can question the Modi government on its commitment to transparency.
He asserted that the government works on the principle of maximum governance minimum government. The Bill, he said, aims at institutionalisation, streamlining and ease of delivery of RTI Act. He said it strengthens the overall RTI structure and described it as an enabling legislation for administration purposes.RTI activist Commodore (Retd.) Lokesh Batra said, “It’s another attempt by the government to amend the RTI Act by taking away the autonomy of Information Commissions – amounting to killing the ‘Right to Know’.”
- IC and information commissioner hold office for five years
- Status of CIC will be equivalent to CEC
- Status of IC will be same as that of EC
- Pay, perks and other service conditions of CIC
- and ICs shall be prescribed by the Centre
- CIC and ICs shall hold office for term as may be prescribed by Centre