The Narendra Modi government on Monday passed amendments in the Right to Information (RTI) Act amid strong opposition. The Lok Sabha has given a nod to the controversial bill of the landmark transparency law while the opposition had been saying that transparency is being diluted. The amendment bill got support from 218 members, while 79 votes went against the RTI (Amendment) Bill. The Centre had introduced the bill three days ago in the Lower House, which will give government powers to fix salaries, tenures and other terms and conditions of employment of information commissioners.
Opposing the amendments, the opposition dubbed it as RTI Elimination Bill. The opposition leaders also said that the bill should be a committee for further scrutiny. Although the bill has been passed in the Lok Sabha but opposition can create handles at the Rajya Sabha, where the government lacks majority and opposition is in a better position.
The bill was tabled by Minister of State (MoS) Jitendra Singh and said the changes will lead to ease of delivery of RTI Act. He also described the earlier Act as clumsy, stating it as enabling legislation for administration purposes.
The proposed changes involve salaries and tenures of Information Commissioners at the states and center. Instead of being on par with that of Election Commission officials, will be decided by the Central government. Congress leader in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury called this bill a threat to the independence of Central Information Commissioner. While Shashi Tharoor also termed it as RTI elimination bill as it removes the organisations’ institutional independence.