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RTI Act amendment: BJP says opposition’s concern misplaced

"The RTI Amendment Bill 2019 in no way tends to compromise autonomy or independence of (the) RTI Act 2005," the BJP has asserted.

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New Delhi: The ruling BJP is trying to convey to the people that the concern of the opposition leaders over the amendment the treasury benches seek in the RTI Act of 2005 is misplaced. In bullet points, the party has issued a detailed statement on social media in this regard.

“The RTI Amendment Bill 2019 in no way tends to compromise autonomy or independence of (the) RTI Act 2005,” the BJP has asserted, saying further, “This is evident from the fact that it is Section 12(4) of the Act which assures autonomy and independence of the Act and is in no way touched.”

“Similarly, Section 12(3) deals with the appointment of Information Commissioner and this again not been interfered in any way,” the BJP statement reads. “The present amendment bill seeks to amend Section 27 of RTI Act 2005 because in order to authorize the government to frame rules for the tenure and terms of conditions for the Information Commissioners, which had not been framed while making RTI Act 2005 by UPA government,” says the statement.

“As per the RTI Act 2005,” according to the ruling party, “Chief Information Commissioner is equal to Chief Election Commissioner and thereby by equal to Supreme Court judge. Similarly, the State Chief Commissioner is equal to Election Commissioner and thereby equal to Supreme Court Judge. This itself is an anomaly, considering the fact the Election Commission is a statuary body while the Supreme Court and Election Commission are constitutional bodies.”

“The other contradiction is that CIC and State Information Commissioners enjoy the status of Supreme Court Judge but the verdict passed is liable to be challenged in the High Court,” the BJP said. The party wrote on Twitter through a picture message, “The present bill seeks to correct this anomaly. The opinion to bring in this change did not subjectively originate from the government alone but also held by several sections of society and judiciary. For example, Rajiv Garg vs UOI Supreme Court Judgment of 2013 directed that decision be taken on the uniformity of the service condition of various tribunals. Similarly, the second Reform Commission is the 13th report of April 2009 also recommended that there is a need for greater uniformity in service conditions.”

“The present amendment is merely enabling legislation which will authorise the government to frame the rules by amending Section 27 and to deliberate upon the tenure and terms of services of Central and State Information Commission through Section 13 and Section 16 of the RTI Act 2005 respectively,” the BJP statement said.

The commitment of (the) Modi government to strengthen the RTI is borne out by the fact that this government introduced the 24 hours portal and a Mobile App for convenience of filing RTI 24×7. Not only this, the Modi government decided to include the leader of the largest opposition party as a member of the Selection Committee when there is no recognized member of the opposition in Lok Sabha. The present government also proactively implemented Section 4 of RTI act whereby suo moto information is now available on all the govt websites even without having to file an RTI to seek information, the message concluded.

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