BJP bulldozes Rajya Sabha to get RTI amendment Bill passed
Even though the BJP in the 245-member House has 78 followed by 48 of the Congress, it was not easy for the NDA to break the UPA alliance on the floor of the House and get the amendment bill passed.
Congress and its 13 alliance and friendly parties wrote a letter to the Chairman of the House that their voice was not heard properly. However, the Bill was passed with 117 members voting in favour of the motion moved by the BJP and getting active support of the parties in opposition like the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS with 6 MPs), Yuvajana Sarmika Rythu Congress Party (YRCP with 2 MPs) and All India Anna Dravida Mennetra Kazhagam (AIADMK with 11 MPs) while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP with 4 MPs) and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP with 4 MPs) abstained from voting. Only 75 MPs opposed the Bill last Thursday. This came as a major shot in the arm to the BJP as for them getting the Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha was no less than a miracle.
The Bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha on July 22 and the Rajya Sabha on July 25, now awaits the assent of President Kovind. Meanwhile RTI activists have written to the President to reject this amendment Bill. If the President signs it, the Act will have the power to notify the terms of office for the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of India and Information Commissioners (IC) of the state. Earlier they had a fixed term of five years in office. Also, the salaries of these officers will now be determined by the Central government and the states will have no role to play on this.
Also the Act of 2005 stated that at the time of the appointment of the CIC and ICs (at the central and state level), if they are receiving pension or any other retirement benefits for previous government service, their salaries will be reduced by an amount equal to the pension. Previous government service includes service under: (i) the central government, (ii) state government, (iii) corporation established under a central or state law, and (iv) company owned or controlled by the central or state government. After this amendment of 2019, all the above provisions will be held null and void.
The Right to Information, which is one of the most lethal tools for common citizens for making the government accountable and responsible, did not come easy. The Official Secrets Act of 1923 was the most important challenge in the history of RTI Act 2005 in India because it prohibited all public servants from disclosing any information to the public. In India, there were various challenges to overcome. Since British times, there have been many laws that prohibited implementation of right to information.
Among many the important laws that prohibited Right to Information was that no one shall be permitted to give any evidence derived from unpublished official records relating to any affairs of State, except with the permission of the head of the department concerned, who shall give or withhold such permission as one thinks fit.