New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha, on Thursday, has passed the controversial Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The government faced a spirited challenge from the Congress and other opposition parties, who accused government for trying to kill the effectiveness of the law (RTI Act). The bill that was passed by the Lok Sabha, on Monday, could pass only with the support of three regional parties – Biju Janata Dal, Telangana Rashtra Samiti and YSR Congress – to sail through the Upper House.
The bill seeks to give central government an authority to fix the tenure and salaries of the chief information commissioner (CIC) and information commissioners (IC) at the Centre and states. Earlier, ICs were used to get salaries equivalent to that of Election Commission officials. The amendment bill was opposed by the information commissioners and transparency activists for downgrading the Central Information Commission.
In Rajya Sabha, the opposition has demanded the bill to be sent for scrutiny by a select committee alleging government for manipulating votes. The motion was defeated 75 to 117 who were in support of the government.
Meanwhile, Communist Party of India (Marxist) member Elamaram Kareem accused BJP MP CM Ramesh for collecting voting slips from MPs, which was supposed to be done by House marshals. While speaking to the Hindu, Kareem said, “Once the ballot papers were distributed, Mr Ramesh came down to collect her ballot. He also had other ballot papers with him. It is not a member’s job to collect the ballot papers – it is for the marshals to do so. That is when I protested and drew the attention of the House to what was blatantly wrong,”
When the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman, Harivansh Narayan Singh, did not respond to the opposition’s demand of repolling, the opposition leaders decided to walkout. In the absence of the opposition, the bill was passed by a voice count.
The government has defended its stance by assuring that the power of provisions of RTI Act and autonomy of the institution are remained untouched.