New Delhi: Congress leader Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday slammed the Central Government a day after the Lok Sabha passed the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019. “It’s clear that the present Central Government sees the RTI Act as a nuisance and wants to destroy the status and independence of the Central Information Commission which was put on par with the Central Election Commission and Central Vigilance Commission,” claimed Sonia Gandhi in an official statement.
The latest amendments in the RTI Act lets the Central government notify the term of office for the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners (ICs). Condemning the amendments, former information commissioners and RTI activists had said that the law would end up being another ‘toothless tiger’ if the Centre fixes the term of service of ICs.
Upping the ante against the Narendra Modi-led Centre, Gandhi further stated, “The Central Government may use its legislative majority to achieve its aims but in the process, it would be disempowering each and every citizen of our country,”
Thus, the Bill invited criticisms from most of the Opposition members who blamed it for seeking to dilute the provisions of the RTI Act 2005 enacted during the first Congress-led government UPA government. The Bill was also considered an encroachment on the power of states.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed with 218 members voting in its favour and 79 against it after a reply by Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Jitendra Singh.
Replying to the opposition leaders, Singh mentioned that no one should make any assumptions about the salary and terms of appointments of CIC and ICs as the Bill only states that terms and conditions will be specified by the government and these had not been deliberated upon.
“As far as the Modi government is concerned, there is nothing to hide. It is committed to full transparency and accountability,” he said.
The minister added the Modi-led government had done away with the need for attestations and interviews for a certain category of jobs in order to promote transparency and accountability.
Singh said that information was being furnished by various departments on their own and orders were uploaded on websites.
Earlier, while moving the RTI Bill for passage, Singh said that the amendment bill seeks to streamline and institutionalise the functioning of Information Commission and “remove some of the anomalies”.
The minister said the CIC’s status is regarded at par with that of Chief Election Commissioner which, in other words, becomes equal to that of the Chief Justice of India.
(With inputs from ANI)