NEW DELHI, July 25:The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2019 by Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh was today passed in Rajya Sabha after massive uproar and drama, as the four hours long debate got repeatedly disrupted with members of Congress and AITMC jumping into the well of the House and hurling slogans demanding that the bill be referred to Select Panel.
The Bill, which had already been passed in the Lok Sabha on 22nd of this month, was finally put to vote in the Rajya Sabha after Dr Jitendra Singh finished his reply to the motion. Soon thereafter, the Congress MPs walked out of the House after a heated exchange of words between Ghulam Nabi Azad and the BJP members.
With 117 votes going in favour of the Bill and 75 opposing it, the passage of the RTI Bill today also broke the five year old jinx that the Modi government was unable to get the bills passed in the Rajya Sabha because of lack of majority.
In his reply to the debate on the Bill, Dr Jitendra Singh said, there is no motivation to curtail the independence of the RTI Act. There is no interference as far as the independence of the Act is concerned, he assured. Speaking about the fixation of the tenure of Information Commissioners, he clarified that it is never mentioned in the amendment that the Government will change it after every two years, as alleged by the Opposition.
The Government will not have unbridled powers to amend the rules, he emphasised. The Minister said that the Government is open to the suggestions and the amendment is being done with a clean intention. On the issue of referring it to the Select Committee of the House, the Minister said that it is the prerogative of the members and it should be determined on the basis of the merit of the Bill.
Speaking about the objective of bringing this amendment, Dr Jitendra Singh said that CIC is a statutory body and Election Commission is a Constitutional body. Therefore, the mandate of Election Commission of India and Central and State Information Commissions are different and needed to be determined accordingly. He clarified that this amendment has been brought in without any motivation. This will help in streamlining the RTI, he added. He assured that this will help to strengthen the RTI Act.
Earlier in Rajya Sabha, while responding to queries from Congress Party regarding vacancies not being filled in the Modi Government, Dr Jitendra Singh turned the tables on the opposition, when he stated that in the Congress manifesto during 2019 election, the Congress party had claimed that if it came to power, it would fill four lakh vacancies by March 2020, while the fact is that the process to fill the same number of vacancies by theModi government had already been started much before March 2019 itself .