Parliament passes RTI Amendment Bill 2019 amid opposition walkout
RTI Amendment Bill: The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed in the Parliament after Rajya Sabha approved it on Thursday amid opposition protest. The opposition had demanded the bill to be sent to a select committee for scrutiny but the motion was defeated in the upper house of the Parliament with 75-117 votes in favour of the government. This is one of the rare instances when the opposition motion was defeated in the Rajya Sabha, where they have mostly enjoyed a majority. The opposition members staged a walkout during the vote, accusing the ruling government of sabotaging the vote.
The Lok Sabha had passed the RTI Amendment Bill, 2019 earlier on July 22, 2019 through a voice vote with 218 votes in favour and 79 against. The RTI Amendment Bill proposes an amendment in the Right to Information Act, 2005 to empower the central government with the right to determine the term, salaries and other terms and conditions of service of the chief information commissioners and information commissioners and the State Chief Information Commissioner and the State Information Commissioners.
Hence, the bill will provide the central government with the right to employ, decide the term, allowance and conditions of service of the information officers.
RTI Amendment Bill: Opposition protest
Several members of the opposition staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha as well after their attempt to stall the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was defeated. The opposition claimed that through the amendment, the Union Government was seeking to weaken the RTI Act by gaining more control over the working of Central and State information commissions.
Senior Congress leader, Shashi Tharoor stated that the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is not an RTI amendment bill but an RTI elimination bill.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh, while defending the bill, assured that the Central Government was not misusing its powers to frame rules regarding State Information Commissions. Singh said that as per RTI Act 2005, the power of framing rules concerning Information Commissions does not fall under either the Union or the State or the Concurrent lists. Hence, it automatically falls under the residuary powers of the Central Government.
RTI Act, 2005: What is the Right to Information Act, 2005?
The Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 was passed by the Parliament in June 2005 and it came into force in October 2005. The RTI Act replaced Freedom of information Act, 2002 with an aim to provide for the setting up of a practical regime of the right to information for citizens.
The RTI Act is a legal right of every Indian citizen. Under its provisions, any citizen of India may request information from a public authority and the authority will be required to reply within 30 days. The request for the information is submitted to the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer.
The RTI Act requires every government body to computerize their records for the wide dissemination of information.
RTI Amendment Bill: Proposed Amendments
The RTI Amendment Bill, 2019 proposes to amend Sections 13 and 16 of the RTI Act, 2005. The sections laid down the tenure and salaries of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at both the central and state level. The RTI Amendment Bill, however, proposes that the Central Government will decide the tenure, salaries and allowances of all Information Commissioners.