United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday said the Right to Information Act was at the “brink of extinction” after the Lok Sabha passed amendments to the law amid protests from Opposition members. The Congress-led alliance was instrumental in enacting the law in 2005.
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, seeks to give the government powers to fix salaries, tenures and other terms and conditions of employment of information commissioners. The Centre said it was fully committed to transparency and autonomy of the institution.
“It is a matter of utmost concern that the central government is hell-bent on completely subverting the historic Right to Information Act, 2005,” the Congress leader said in a statement. “This law, prepared after widespread consultations and unanimously passed by Parliament, now stands at the brink of extinction.”
Gandhi said it had become clear that the central government viewed the RTI Act as a nuisance and wanted to “destroy the status and independence of the Central Information Commission”, which was put on par with the Central Election Commission and the Central Vigilance Commission.
“The central government may use its legislative majority to achieve its aims but in the process it would be disempowering each and every citizen of our country,” she added.
Gandhi said more than 60 lakh men and women had used RTI in the past decade, ushering in a “culture of transparency and accountability administration at all levels”. “The foundations of our democracy have, as a result, been strengthened immeasurably,” she added. “The weaker sections of our society have benefited greatly by the proactive use of RTI by activists and others.”