NEW DELHI: Lok Sabha passed the RTI (Amendment) Bill on Monday in the midst of opposition protests that it would dilute the transparency law and the government rejecting the arguments, saying that the bill did not impact the autonomy of the Central Information Commission. The bill may become a test case in Rajya Sabha where so far — unlike prior to the Lok Sabha elections — government bills have passed without much resistance. The RTI amendment may test the calm with BJD having opposed the bill along with other opposition parties in Lok Sabha. The opposition protested the provisions that seek to “downgrade” the CIC with its members losing their equivalence to election commissioners and Supreme Court judges. The government has argued that a statutory body cannot be at par with constitutional positions like ECs and SC judges. Opposition MPs have also protested that the current session of Parliament was being extended to ensure legislation went through before various standing committees are formed. Responding to the criticism, minister of state in PMO Jitendra Singh said there were anomalies in the Act which needed to be corrected and the amendment was an enabling legislation. “There was no provision to frame rules and this bill will address that. Without amending Section 27, you cannot frame rules,” he said. Singh said Section 12(4), which deals with autonomy, has been left untouched. There are sections that deal with salaries, allowances and other terms of service but the government is yet to deliberate on salaries. Several MPs from BSP and TMC called for a division, which was defeated 218 to 79 votes. After this, Congress leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury sought a clarification which was disallowed by the Speaker. Unhappy with this, members of the opposition parties staged a walkout. Later, the opposition parties registered their protest at the Rajya Sabha business advisory committee meeting, where 19 bills listed by the government were brought up.
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