RTI bill passes Rajya Sabha hurdle amid protests from opposition

New Delhi: The controversial RTI amendment bill passed the Rajya Sabha hurdle on Thursday after sharp exchanges between members of the treasury and opposition benches and subsequent walk-out by the Congress.

The opposition members’ amendment to refer the bill to a select committee was defeated with 75 votes in favour while 117 against it.

The Upper House on Thursday witnessed disruptions in proceeding after Union Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Jitendra Singh moved the bill to amend the Right to Information Act, 2005 and it was passed.

The main opposition Congress, Trinamool Congress, RJD and CPI insisted on sending the bill to a select committee but could not succeed due to insufficient numbers in the House. While initially they protested forcing the Chair to adjourn proceedings four times, albeit briefly, they participated in the discussions later on.

The Congress seemed to have realised that it will not be able to secure adequate numbers to get its demand met.

“..I am sure, with the numbers that the ruling party has been able to muster and the various telephone calls that have gone to the state capitals, they may succeed in passing the amendments,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said while participating in the discussion on the bill.

The Lok Sabha had earlier this week passed the bill despite reservations expressed by members of the opposition.

Congress member Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that though the proposed changes in the law were seemingly very simple it was actually an attempt to exercise control by a “control-freak government”.

He termed the amendments as “sinister, dangerous and over-clever” because there seemed minor changes only on two issues.

Replying to the members on the bill, minister Jitendra Singh allayed fears of any dilution of the RTI Act. He assured the House that there is no interference as far as the independence of the RTI institution is concerned.

“There will be no such interference as concerns raised by some of the members,” said the minister.