Despite opposition from Opposition parties in the Lok Sabha, the government presented the Right to Information Bill 2019. With the Congress and TMC’s walkout, the bills were allowed to be presented with 224 votes against nine. The revised bill says that the terms and conditions of the salaries, allowances and service of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners and the State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioners will be decided by the Central Government. According to the basic law, the salary of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners is now equal to the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
The Central Information Commission and the State Information Commission are the legal bodies established under the provisions of the Right to Information Act 2005. In such a situation, there is a need to streamline their service conditions. It has been stated in the amendment bill that other terms and conditions of salary, allowances and service of Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners and State Chief Information Commissioner and State Information Commissioners will be decided by the Central Government.
Government’s point of view
- The Government says that the motive is to provide institutional form to the RTI Act, to make it systematic and result oriented. This will strengthen the structure of the RTI and this bill has been brought with the administrative purpose.
- The Government said that during the first tenure of the UPA government, the RTI Act was made in hurry. Therefore, there was need to bring these changes.
- The government says that there are many inconsistencies in the existing law, which needs improvement. Chief Information Commissioner is considered equivalent to a judge of the Supreme Court, but his decision can be appealed in the High Court.
Opposition’s point of view
- Social workers are criticizing the ammendment the RTI Act. They are saying that this will weaken the transparency panel in the country.
- Congress leaders are saying that the draft bill poses a threat to the Central Information Commission’s independence. Through this bill, the government is trying to disrupt the right to information. Now the Chief Information Commissioner’s tenure is five years. The government will get the right to decide their tenure through this bill.
- Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said that it is a bill to end RTI. Removal of the statutory conditions of the act through the bill, the independence and autonomy of the Information Commission will be abolished.
- Sougat Roy of Trinamool Congress demanded to send the bill to the Standing Committee of Parliament. He said that 71 percent of the bills were sent to the parliamentary committees in the 15th Lok Sabha. In the first tenure of the Modi government, only 26 percent of the bills in the 16th Lok Sabha have been sent to the parliamentary committees, whereas one of the 11 bills submitted so far in the 17th Lok Sabha has not been sent to the parliamentary committees. He said that RTI is our very important authority. This bill will end the rights of the Information Commission.