NEW DELHI: RTI activists on Monday slammed passage of a bill amending the Right To Information (RTI) Act in Lok Sabha, terming it an attempt to undermine the democracy and raised objection to the bill being passed without any public consultations on the issue.
"It is a matter of grave concern that the amendments to the RTI law were introduced in complete secrecy and in flagrant violation of the Pre-Legislative Consultation Policy of the central government, which mandates public disclosure and consultation on draft legislation," RTI activist Aruna Roy said.
Another activist Anjali Bhardwaj said that it was a serious blow to the law.
"RTI amendment bill passed by Lok Sabha. Many factually incorrect statements made by the minster. Amendments are to undermine the independent institution of information commissions. Must be referred to Rajya Sabha select committee," she tweeted.
Amrita Johri, a member of the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), said the manner in which the bill was passed was extremely disappointing.
She said that neither was the bill disclosed nor any public consultation was held and added that it was a surreptitious way of amending the transparency law.
"Thought the opposition tried to raise crucial issues but the minister did not allow the opposition to put forth their points. The bill should have been referred to a standing committee rather than undermining the democracy in this manner," Johri said.
Activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan alleged that the government was trying to undermine the act because it wanted to hide information which would expose its misdeeds.
"The government was refusing to disclose information on who travels with the prime minister on his foreign travels, on Rafale scam, on sources of BJP's funds and also which corporates were being awarded contracts," he said at an event here.
The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the bill amending the Right To Information Act amid objections by the opposition which alleged that it was an attempt to undermine the law and make the transparency panel into a "toothless tiger".
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, takes away the stature of information commissioners from the equivalent of election commissioners, with their salaries and service conditions to be specified by the government.
Rejecting the opposition's charge that the bill will weaken act, the government said it was fully committed to transparency and autonomy of the institution.
Earlier in the day, leaders cutting across party lines had slammed the Centre's move to amend the law, saying it is an attack on the independence of the transparency panel.
Speaking at an event held to oppose the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha said such a move would kill the spirit of RTI.
Congress' Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Gowda accused the Modi government of trying to weaken anti-corruption laws by using 'Chanakya neeti'.
Wajahat Habibullah, the country's first chief information commissioner, also disapproved of the central government's move to amend the RTI Act.
"If the people who bring information to you are scared to tell the truth, how will the information reach you? "Do we have the power to go to the prime minister and present our problems? No.The only ethical way to do this is through RTI and the lawmakers have repeatedly said that we have the right to question the government," he said.