The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 is going to be the next flash point in the Rajya Sabha with the Opposition members moving a resolution to send the legislation to a select committee.
The resolution was signed by the Biju Janata Dal, a party that maintains a neutral stance in Parliament keeping its distance from the Opposition and the ruling party.
The resolution has been moved by Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool and signed by the Congress, the RJD, the BJD, the CPI, the CPI(M), the DMK and others. The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday.
“It is an important Bill which has far-reaching implications. We are not against it in toto but we do feel that it needs a detailed scrutiny and since there is no standing committee as of now, it should be sent to a select committee for further study,” BJD’s floor leader in the Rajya Sabha Prasanna Acharya told The Hindu .
Opposing the Bill in the Lok Sabha, B. Mahtab of the BJD said it sought to bring in changes involving the salaries and tenures of the Information Commissioners at the States and the Centre. This would end up reducing the Information Commission to the level of a government department and weaken its authority, he said.
Under the amendments, the Information Commissioners, who now have five-year tenures, will have “terms as may be prescribed by the Central government” and salaries, instead of being on a par with those of the Election Commissioners, will be decided by the Central government.
“Parliament has so far cleared 13 Bills without a single one sent to a standing committee. The Trinamool Congress has decided to demand that every Bill that is introduced from now on be sent to a select committee. It’s not to say that we oppose all Bills, but we want to improve them,” Mr. O’Brien said. The RTI Bill, he said, will curtail the statutory powers of the Information Commissioners.
RJD leader Manoj K. Jha said that while the government cannot take away the Right to Information Act, it wants to make it dysfunctional.
“The Act provided right to information without any caveats. The proposed amendments kill the very spirit of the Act and gives a tool for the government to control the Central Information Commission,” he said.