New Delhi: Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday accused the Narendra Modi government of trying to dilute the Right to Information (RTI) Act, saying that bringing amendments to it was a ‘direct assault’ intended to destroy the historic legislation. Also Read - SC issues notice to RBI on pleas alleging violation of right to information law
Her remark comes a week after the Centre curtailed the tenure of information commissioners from five to three years, under the amended RTI rules. The RTI Amendment Bill was passed by the Parliament in July. Also Read - A first in Indian Cricket: DDCA comes under Right To Information (RTI) Act
On Thursday, in a statement tweeted by the official handle of the Congress, the party chief said, “Any official who allows the release of information against the government, can be removed swiftly, or not allowed to continue in office. This will, in turn, lead to a chilling effect on Information Commissioners, both at central and state level.” Also Read - Right to Information Act comes into force in Lanka
The statement further said that the changes would leave the Information Commissioners at the mercy of the very government they should be holding accountable. In the statement, she added that the changes would mean that no self-respecting official would want to work under such circumstances.
She further argued that the Modi government would now be able to appoint officers who will willingly serve at the pleasure of the state and not allow any information that the government wants to hide, to release.
Apart from the change in tenure from five to three years, under the new rules, the salaries of Information Commissioners would be decided by the Centre, instead of being on par with that of the Election Commissioners.
Passed by the Parliament in June 2005, the RTI came into being in October that year. It empowers any citizen of India to request any public authority for some information; the said authority has to reply within 30 days.