Demanding withdrawal of a bill proposing changes in the RTI Act, Congress MP Karti Chidambaram on Monday took a swipe at the government in the Lok Sabha, saying it should not use its “303 to massacre the spirit” of the transparency law.
Participating in the discussion on the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, he said it undermines the autonomy of information commissioners and there has been absence of public consultation.
He expressed hope that the government will not use its 303 MPs in the House to give a “death sentence” to the spirit of RTI.
Stating that “303” has many connotations, Mr Chidambaram said IPC Section 303 refers to death sentence.
“I hope the government will not use its ‘303’ to give a death sentence to the spirit of RTI. 303 also refers to the standard issue rifle used by the constables today. The 303 rifle was also used by the brutal Gen Dyer to commit the horrendous massacre at Jallianwala Bagh,” he said.
“I hope the government will not use ‘303’ to massacre the spirit of RTI. I request you to withdraw the Bill,” Karti Chidambaram said, referring to the BJPs strength in the Lok Sabha.
Echoing similar sentiments, BSP MP Danish Ali alleged that through the Bill the government was trying to dilute the Right to Information and block information, and made an appeal to the government to take back the amendment Bill.
He said there was unanimity when the RTI Bill was passed and the government should ponder why the Lok Sabha is now divided over the amendment bill. He alleged that the government wants to conceal information from general public otherwise it will be exposed.
AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi was equally scathing in his criticism as he alleged that the government was “afraid of the Rs 10 request of a garib chowkidar” through which it can get information about its functioning.
Mr Owaisi was referring to Rs 10 application through which a person can apply for RTI.
He said the bill’s aim is “Modi-fication of RTI”.
Describing the introduction of the bill in the Lok Sabha as the “blackest day” in the history of Parliament, RSP MP N K Premachandran said it is an insult to the House.
“The legislative supremacy of Parliament has been taken over by executive,” he alleged.
Mr Premchandran said the bill was brought in haste and not enough time was given to the MPs to study it.
Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy termed the bill as “regressive”.
He also questioned as to why the government was “in a hurry” to get the amendment passed.
Raghu Rama Krishna Raju (YSRCP) urged the government to give clarity on the status of chief information commissioner and information commissioners.
He claimed the power of this House was being taken away by the executive.
“Executive can’t take away the power of legislature,” he said.
Supporting the bill, he said the state autonomy should be retained.
Mr Raju said that a number of RTI activists have been killed and there was a need to ensure their protection.
B Mehtab (BJD) alleged that the bill was an assault on the idea on federalism and asked, “Why are we weakening the RTI architecture?”
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