The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed on Thursday by the Rajya Sabha in spite of much opposition. It was earlier passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday. The bill has come under criticism from opposition parties, RTI activists and former members of the Information Commission, for taking away the autonomy and independence of the Information Commission and posing a threat to the Act itself.
The bill could not have been passed in the Rajya Sabha without the support of MPs from the BJD, YSRCP and TRS. In an open letter to the Chief Ministers of the three states of these regional parties, former Chief Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu has demanded an explanation for supporting the bill.
Addressing the three CMs, K Chandrasekhar Rao, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, and Naveen Patnaik, Sridhar writes, â€śPlease try to take assistance of your legal teams and find how your support to this bill will kill your sovereign powers at least now, which you should have done before supporting it. You have a duty to answer these questions, morally, legally (as Section 4(1)(c) of RTI Act mandates), constitutionally (Federal principles) and politically (as you have proclaimed that you would form a front and fight for the rights of the states, against the centralization of powers by the Union),â€ť the letter says.
Activists have pointed out many contentions with the amendments. For instance, the bill proposes to give the Centre the power to set the tenure and salaries of State and Central Information Commissioners. The National Campaign for Peoplesâ€™ Right to Information slammed the move and said that this would weaken the Information Commissions, depriving them of their autonomy and making them subordinate to an executive branch.
â€śDo you know that when your MPs voted for this Bill, they have laid at the feet of the Central Government the liberty, autonomy and sovereignty of the people you are legitimately expected to represent for no reason, which is totally against the norms and principles of federalism?â€ť Sridhar asks the CMs in his letter.
Calling the bill unconstitutional, anti-democratic and anti-federal, Sridhar asks, â€śWas there any fear or apprehension you are suffering from? Among the three of you, only one has some charges against him pending, then why other two were worried about Centre?â€ť
He has asked the CMs to release detailed statements explaining why they supported the bill at the cost of sacrificing the sovereign rights of their states.
Explainer: Why we need to pay attention to upcoming amendments in RTI Act