New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 amid massive protest by the Opposition led by Congress MP Sashi Tharoor during the proceedings. The bill, which seeks to amend the 2005 RTI Act, proposes to give the Centre decisive power to set salaries, allowances and service conditions of the Information Commissioners at both central and state government levels.
It also proposes to give the Centre the power to change the period of office of Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commissioner, and State Information Commissioners, which is currently set at five years. This means that the tenure of all the information commissioners can be fixed as per the rules framed by the central government.
As per the current RTI Act, salaries and allowances of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners are at par with that of the Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners respectively, which have been determined as per the Constitution.
The bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha by Minister of State for Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pension Jitendra Singh who said that it was an anomaly to equate Information Commission to a constitutional body like the Election Commission (EC).
The proposed bill states the reason for amendment as "the mandate of Election Commission of India and central and state information commission are different. Hence, their status and service conditions need to be rationalised accordingly."
During the debate on the bill, Tharoor claimed that under the proposed changes the central government will get the power to hire and fire independent information commissioners. Questioning why the bill was brought "without any public consultation", Tharoor alleged that the government had vested interests in introducing the bill.
He attacked the government and said, "Why is the government desperate to rush through the bill? Is it because the Central Information Commission (CIC) delivered an order on the Prime Minister's educational detail."
The Opposition also alleged that the bill was brought in to undermine the law and transparency of the panel, and it would weaken the act.
Refuting the Opposition's claims, the government said that the opposition is misguiding the people as the proposed bill only aims to streamline the functioning of the Infomation Commission.