Even as the passage of the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill-2013 in Parliament seems imminent, the demand to refer the Bill to a Parliamentary Standing Committee for public consultation is gaining momentum both within and outside the House. After the Biju Janta Dal MP Baijayant Panda, another Lok Sabha MP Ajoy Kumar has written a letter to Speaker Meira Kumar requesting her to refer the Bill to a Standing Committee.
RTI pioneer and social activist Aruna Roy and the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information have written letters to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi requesting her to take steps to ensure that the RTI Amendment Bill is referred to a Standing Committee for pubic consultation.
In his letter to the Speaker, Mr. Kumar, MP from Jamshedpur talked about the public mood against the amendments to the transparency law. “The RTI Act is a fundamental citizens’ right and has empowered citizens across the country to access information and demand accountability from the government. As you may be aware there has been widespread public agitation against the RTI amendments.”
“There is also an apprehension among people that the whole political class is coming together to prevent transparency in the political process...We must provide common citizens a chance to present their views on the amendment Bill by referring it to a Standing Committee. Ensuring public consultation on the Bill will help reduce the chasm between people and political parties and will help restore peoples’ faith in parliamentary democracy,” he said.While advocating against the transparency law being neutralised, Ms. Roy in her letter to Ms. Gandhi said: “The Election Commission and IT Authorities have already displayed their inability to effectively control this deep-rooted problem of illegitimate influence of money power in the electoral political process. The only hope is to empower the common citizen to do what they have been doing so courageously and creatively with the RTI- fight corruption and the arbitrary use of power through their straightforward questions and determination to get answers.”
Besides the letter to Ms. Gandhi, several petitions addressed to the President, Prime Minister and Lok Sabha Speaker against the RTI amendments have been endorsed by more than two lakh people.