A group of activists who went to the Rashtrapati Bhavan to submit petitions against the Right Information Act Amendment Bill to the President were detained briefly by the Delhi Police on Thursday afternoon, PTI reported. They were released later.

The amendments to RTI Act were passed by the Lok Sabha on July 22 and the Rajya Sabha on July 25. The legislation will now go to President Ram Nath Kovind for his assent.

The amendments seek to give the government powers to fix salaries, tenures and other terms and conditions of employment of information commissioners appointed under the RTI Act. The Centre had said it was fully committed to transparency and autonomy of the institution.

The activists from National Campaign for People’s Right to Information had gathered outside gate No. 38 of Rashtrapati Bhavan to give their representation to Kovind, and to urge him not to give his assent to the controversial bill.

Earlier in the day, activist Anjali Bhardwaj of Satark Nagrik Sangathan, who called for people to gather at noon outside the Rashtrapati Bhawan, tweeted: “Police is detaining everyone who wants to petition the President to withhold his assent to the #RTIAmendments.” She questioned if this was even a democracy where people do not have a right to peacefully submit a petition to the president.

They were taken to Mandir Marg police station.

In an update, she said that they were released but only three people were allowed to submit the petition. “Why can citizens not go to the President’s office to deliver their petitions in a democracy?” she asked.

“Not allowing people to submit the petition endorsed by lakhs across the country,”
Bhardwaj wrote in another tweet.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi had also criticised the Narendra Modi-led government for pushing amendments to the Right Information Act through Parliament. Sonia Gandhi had said the law was at the “brink of extinction”.

The bill was passed by a voice vote in the Upper House. Most Opposition parties wanted the draft law to be referred to a select committee for scrutiny. However, the proposal regarding that got 117 votes, while 75 MPs voted against it. The Opposition claimed that the proposal was rejected due to intimidation by the government. When the amendment law was passed in the Rajya Sabha, Opposition members staged a walk out.

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