Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Thursday accused the Centre of launching its “final assault to decimate the Right to Information Act, and enforce its majoritarian agenda without being held accountable to the people”, The Hindu reported. Gandhi’s remarks came a week after the Narendra Modi-led government notified the rules of the amended RTI Act, reducing the tenure of information commissioners from five years to three years.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government had passed the RTI Act in 2005. In July, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government amended the Act to introduce changes in the salaries and tenures of information commissioners, as well as in other service conditions. Parliament had given its assent to the amended Act.
“It is no secret that the Modi government has seen this remarkable institution [RTI Act] as an obstacle to enforcing their majoritarian agenda without being held accountable to people,” Gandhi said in a statement on Thursday. “For the majority of their first term, several of the information commissioner offices remained vacant, including that of the chief information commissioner [for 10 months]. The BJP government has now launched its final assault to decimate RTI.”
Gandhi added that the term of office of the information commissioners will now be decided by the Centre. “Any official who allows the release of information against the government can now be swiftly removed or simply not continued in office,” the Congress interim chief alleged.
Gandhi said that the salaries, allowances and terms of conditions, which were earlier equal to those of election commissioners, will now be prescribed by the government. “By reducing the benefits for these important posts, the Modi government has ensured that no senior self-respecting official would agree to work under such monitored circumstances,” the Congress interim president added.
She also described the RTI Act as one of the proudest achievements of the Congress-led UPA. Gandhi said that the Act had “not only allowed activists to expose cases of corruption but altered the relationship between citizens and the government”.
On October 16, retired Supreme Court judge Justice Madan Lokur had said that the amendments to the RTI Act were “regressive”, and would have a negative impact on the functioning of the law.