The Parliament on Monday saw two important legislations being passed in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. While the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed in the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha gave nod to the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019. Both the Bills were vehemently opposed by the Opposition parties. Several members staged a walkout in protest of the RTI Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha.
In Lok Sabha, the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed through voice vote. The Bill amends Sections 13 and 16 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, which deal with the serving duration of the information officers, their salaries and other terms and conditions. The Bill now gives the power to the government to specify these conditions on its own merit.
The Opposition parties alleged that the Bill was an attempt to undermine the law and make the panel into a “toothless tiger”. Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said the Bill was not meant to amend the RTI Act but to eliminate it.
“Why is the government desperate to rush through the Bill? Is it because the Central Information Commission (CIC) delivered an order on the Prime Minister’s educational detail,” Tharoor asked.
Minister of State Jitendra Singh said that the Opposition was “misguiding” the people by saying that the government was trying to weaken the RTI Act through the Bill. “From the beginning of its first term in 2014, the Modi government has brought transparency in governance for greater public participation,” Singh said.
“I urge the opposition to support the amendment to RTI Act, so that we can streamline the functioning ofI Act and remove anomalies,” he added.
When the Minister sought consideration and passage of the Bill, several members of the opposition, including from the BSP and the TMC, called for a division. The Bill was passed by 218 to 79 votes.
Rajya Sabha passes Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill
Meanwhile, in the Rajya Sabha, Home Minister Amit Shah introduced the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bill, which was passed by the Lower House last week, provides for a reduction in tenure of chairpersons of national and state human rights bodies to three years from the current five years.
Besides this, the government can now appoint any former Supreme Court judge as NHRC chairperson, a post which mandatorily went to only a former chief justice of India.
The Opposition was of the view that the government might misuse this power to plant its own people in the NHRC.
Allaying the Opposition’s fears, Home Minister Amit Shah said, “There has been an apprehension that it will be government’s committee … or members could be re-appointed after three years.” Earlier, in his reply, the Minister of State (Home Affairs) Nityanand Rai said changes in the legislation would help in protecting human rights effectively.
(With PTI inputs)