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Lok Sabha passes amendment to Right to Information Act, Opposition slams govt

Rejecting the opposition's charge that the Bill will weaken the Act, the government said it was fully committed to transparency and autonomy of the institution.

ET Bureau|
Updated: Jul 23, 2019, 07.30 AM IST
The Bill was later passed by voice vote.
New Delhi: The Lok Sabha passed Right to Information (Amendment) Bill amidst criticism from Opposition parties inside the House and protests from social rights activists outside Parliament. Through the amendment bill, the government has given itself powers to prescribe term of office and salaries of state and central information commissioners.

The Opposition parties, including Congress, Trinamool Congress, Left Front, SP, BSP, BJD and National Conference, criticised the government for bringing the Bill to undermine people’s right to information and scuttling probing questions.

The government brushed aside all criticism and said it was trying to tighten the transparency regime and plugging the loopholes introduced by the previous Congress-led UPA government.

Minister of state Jitendra Singh said, “As far as the Modi government is concerned, we have nothing to hide. This has been proven by the mandate we have got from the people. So why is the Opposition making it out as we are doing something to belittle governance?”

The minister set out UPA’s record of appointment of commissioners and said, “We have been accused of delaying appointments of information commissioners.

But this is not the first time this has happened. There have been instances before 2014 when the CIC was functioning with just five commissioners. It happened in 2013. Without holding any grudge against anyone – we would call meetings of the selection committee but Kharge ji (Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge) would not come but just send a letter. We had to postpone the meetings. So selection would take time.”

Leading the opposition charge, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said under the proposed changes the government can hire and fire information commissioners.

“It is not Amendment bill but elimination bill.” TDP MP Jayadev Galla said, “Brute majority does not mean you should act brutally. I would advise government to desist from brutal force. This amendment Bill is another attempt to control independent authorities.”
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