November 2019
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Sonia slams Modi Govt over RTI amendments, says ''final assault'' on democratic institutions
New Delhi: Attacking Narendra Modi government over the amendments made in the Right To Information (RTI) Act, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday alleged that the "BJP government has now launched its final assault to decimate RTI". She said that the Congress will continue to fight the Modi Government in these ''''self-serving actions which are the very opposite of national interest''''. In a statement, Mrs Gandhi alleged that the Modi government has seen the RTI institution as ''obstacle to enforcing their majoritarian agenda without being held accountable to people".

The Congress president''s criticism came a week after the Union government reduced the tenure of Information Commissioners from five to three years under the new RTI rules. Ms Gandhi said that for the major part of the Modi government''s first term, several of the Information Commissioner offices remained vacant, including that of the Chief Information Commissioner, for ten months. "To further erode and dilute its effectiveness, the Modi Government has passed amendments which diminish the office of the Information Commissioner in a manner that it leaves them at the mercy of very government it is required to hold accountable", she added.

The Congress President further said that the Term of Office for the Information Commissioners is now at the discretion of the Central Government. "Under the 2005 law, the term was fixed for five years to ensure independence from executive interference and intimidation. This has now been reduced to three years and is at the continuing discretion of the Central Government", she pointed out. Ms Gandhi said that any official who allows the release of information against the Government can now be swiftly removed or simply not continued in office. "This will have a chilling effect on all Information Commissioners- Central and state", she said.

Pointing out to the changes made by the Modi government in the RTI Act, the Congress president said that the salaries, allowances and terms of conditions, which were equal to the Election Commissioners, shall now be as prescribed by the Central Government. "In other words, the salaries and benefits can be changed whenever the Modi Government so desires. By reducing the benefits for these important posts, the Modi Government has ensured that no senior self-respecting official would agree to work under such monitored circumstances", she said. Ms Gandhi said that these amendments will also ensure that no Information Commissioner shall be free from interference and signalling by the Modi Government.

"Above all, this will allow the Modi Government to appoint submissive officials, who don''t mind serving at the pleasure of the state and who will not allow questions the Government finds inconvenient to answer", she criticised. Condemning the government''s move, Ms Gandhi said the Congress will oppose "this piecemeal destruction of our democratic institutions and will continue to fight the Modi Government in these self-serving actions which are the very opposite of national interest.

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