Leaders cutting across party lines on Monday slammed the Centre's move to amend the Right to Information Act, saying it is an attack on the independence of the transparency panel.
Speaking at an event held to oppose the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha said such a move will kill the spirit of RTI.
"This is an attack on the federal structure. The central government has the entire power and most of the information (under RTI) is sought from the government. You are colouring the entire process. It is like killing the spirit of RTI," he said.
Congress' Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Gowda said his party will oppose the proposed amendments and accused the Modi government of trying to weaken ant-corruption laws.
"The RTI Act was brought under the UPA tenure and it was given an important place. The Act had given people the right to expose corruption in government. The government is trying to weaken anti-corruption laws by using 'Chanakya neeti'," he said.
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 seeks to give the government powers to fix salaries, tenures and other terms and conditions of employment of information commissioners.
Gowda said if the government will get the freedom to fix the tenure of RTI commissioners, their power will be weakened.
"Congress is against the amendments. In Lok Sabha, we cannot do much because the government is in majority. But in Rajya Sabha, we will bring a resolution and demand that a Standing Committee or Select Committee look into it," he said.
Wajahat Habibullah, the country's first chief information commissioner, also disapproved of the central government's move to amend the RTI Act.
"If the people who bring information to you are scared to tell the truth, how will the information reach you?
"Do we have the power to go to the Prime Minister and present our problems? No. The only ethical way to do this is through RTI and the lawmakers have repeatedly said that we have the right to question the government," he said.
"The government gets enormous power from people, and I believe they should use it to serve them," Habibullah said.
The former CIC also said that such an Act is in the interest of the government as much it is in the interest of the people served by it.
"... The government has repeatedly said that it wants to establish a corruption-free society. However, if they really want to do this, what is the need to amend the RTI Act?
"It is okay to be outraged about this, but most importantly, it is our duty to make the government understand that this step is not just in the interest of people, but also in their own," he stressed.
While tabling the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill in the Parliament on Friday, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Jitendra Singh asserted that it would lead to ease of delivery of RTI Act and described it as an enabling legislation for administration purposes.
Transparency activists, however, have slammed the government's move to amend the Act to take away statutory parity of Information Commissioners with Election Commissioners in terms of tenure and service conditions.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)