India’s Parliament has amended the Right to Information Act even as activists and opposition leaders fume
- The Lok Sabha, the lower house of India's Parliament, has approved the amendments to the Right to Information Act.
- Activists and former bureaucrats believe the amendments will dilute the powers of the Chief Information Commissioner.
- The Narendra Modi government is under attack from both opposition parties as well as activists for the amendments to the RTI Act.
The Lok Sabha, the lower house of India's Parliament, has approved the amendments to the Right to Information (RTI) Act.With this, the Narendra Modi government has taken the powers to decide the tenure, salaries, and other terms of employment of Chief Information Commissioners (CIC).
The CICs who currently get paid as much as the Chief Election Commissioners-- ₹250,000 a month-- for a maximum of five years, provided he/she is under the age of 65. However, the amendments will allow the government to decide the tenure and the salaries on a case to case basis.
The Modi government is under attack from both opposition parties as well as activists for the amendments to the RTI Act. "The implication is the Centre wants to control the CIC and downgrade the function of State information commissioners (SICs), and that appointments of information commissioners are to be henceforth dictated by political patronage,” Shailesh Gandhi, a former Chief Information Commissioner, told The Hindu on July 21.
The government has however, defended its decision saying the amendments will only streamline the functioning of the office and make it more effective. Simply put, the government's contention is that the "the mandate of Election Commission of India and Central and State Information Commissions are different. Hence, their status and service conditions need to be rationalised accordingly”.
The Right to Information Act was brought in 2005 to enable any citizen of India to request and obtain information from a "public authority", which is required to reply within thirty days.
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