Taking strong exception to the support extended by the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to the controversial RTI amendment bill, a former chief information commissioner has written to the chief ministers of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, questioning the logic behind their decision.
In a strongly worded letter to all the three CMs, namely Naveen Patnaik, Jagan Mohan Reddy and K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), Professor Sridhar Acharyulu has called upon them to put out a detailed statement, in their capitals, explaining the rationale behind supporting the “unconstitutional bill.”
Posing a series of eight questions to all the three leaders, he asked them whether they understood the implications of the changes proposed in the bill.
Pointing out the drawbacks of the bill, the former official, among other things, said that the bill is a threat to the independence of both the central and state information commissioners.
Contending that the bill seriously encroaches on the rights of the states, Acharyulu asked, “Do you know that this is beginning of surrender of your powers to Delhi sultans to the detriment of the interests of your people and contrary to the basic structure of the Indian Constitution?”
Asserting that the original RTI was a tool to combat corruption, he further asked, “Do you know that the RTI was helping millions of people to empower themselves, resolve the grievances through a mere ₹10 RTI application? Do you know that it was preventing corruption at grassroot level in thousands of government offices and thus helping in delivering good governance?”
Referring to the status, tenure and salaries of the information commissioners, the ex-official asked the three leaders whether they know that the central government did not place before the Parliament any information about what kind of demotion in status they want. “Do you even know what term they want to fix and what salary they propose to give to the commissioners at Centre and in your states?”
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“Have you read that the bill says that their term will be ‘as prescribed by the Centre’ and did they tell you what they are going to prescribe? Did you ask your MPs to support the bill without knowing what the status of your future Information Commissioners will be,” he further asked.
On the corruption charges faced by Jagan Mohan Reddy, he asked what the other two CMs were worried about. “Is there any fear or apprehension you are suffering from? Among the three, only one has charges pending against him, then why are the other two worried about the Centre? What compelled you three to surrender your sovereignty to the Delhi sultanate?”
Calling upon the three chief ministers to get briefed by their respective legal teams to understand how the bill has compromised the states’ sovereign powers, the ex-information commissioner also pointed out that ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Chandrashekar Rao had tried forming a third front in order to fight for the rights of the states and prevent the concentration of powers at the Centre.
“You have a duty to answer morally, legally (as per Section 4(1) (c) of RTI Act mandates), constitutionally (federal principles) and politically (as you have proclaimed that you would form a front and fight for the rights of the states, against the centralisation of powers by the Union),” the letter said.