LS passes RTI (Amendment) Bill, deliberates on NMC, Motor Vehicles bills; RS clears amendment governing NHRC chief appointment

Lok Sabha passed the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, on Monday, while it deliberated on the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019, and National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill. The Rajya Sabha passed the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 proposes to give the Centre the power to set the tenure and salaries of state and central information commissioners. The current law gives information commissioners a tenure of five years and salaries which match those of election commissioners. The Bill faced criticism from the Opposition with leaders calling it an attempt to undermine the autonomy of the transparency body.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor sought the withdrawal of the RTI (Amendment) Bill 2019.

"Are you bringing this amendment because an information commissioner asked the PMO to reveal the PM's educational details?" he said.

Tharoor also asked that what was the hurry in bulldozing every bill without scrutiny and why is the government delaying constituting the parliamentary standing committees.

TMC leader Sougata Roy said that the government has brought the amendment to curtail the powers of information commissioners and also pointed out the killings of RTI activists. BJD's Bhartruhari Mahtab said that RTI is an important act, and yet both past and the present governments have sought amendments to dilute the law. BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab said that if the Bill is passed, the Information Commission will function like a government department.

 LS passes RTI (Amendment) Bill, deliberates on NMC, Motor Vehicles bills; RS clears amendment governing NHRC chief appointment

Parliamentarians observe silence during an obituary reference of sitting member Ram Chandra Paswan and former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit in the Lok Sabha. PTI

Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh said the Bill aims at institutionalisation, streamlining and ease of delivery of the RTI Act. He added that the government is fully committed to transparency and autonomy of the institution. Members sought a division opposing the Bill, which was defeated by 218 to 79 votes. The Bill was then passed by a voice vote, even as some members of Opposition parties staged a walkout.

The National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, which seeks to replace the 63-year-old Medical Council of India (MCI) to reform the medical education in India, was introduced in Lok Sabha Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. The Bill also seeks to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act 1956.

The new Bill has the provision for making national standards in medical education uniform by proposing that the final year MBBS exam be treated as an entrance test for PG and a screening test for students who graduated in medicine from foreign countries. This exam will be called the National Exit Test (NEXT). The Bill also puts a cap on fees on 50 percent of seats in MBBS and PG colleges.

The last Bill to be tabled for the day in the Lower House was the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bill, tabled by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, seeks to amend the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, which looks into road safety, licenses and permits with regard to motor vehicles and standards for motor vehicles. The Bill proposes a scheme to allow cashless treatment of victims in a road accident during the 'golden hour'.

It provides for the constitution of a compulsory road insurance cover for all, under a Motor Vehicle Accident Fund. The Bill proposes to allow the Centre to recall motor vehicles if a defect in the same causes environmental damage or is unsafe for the driver or others on the road. The Bill seeks to develop a National Transportation Policy, the constitution of a National Road Safety Board and that transport aggregators, like Uber and Ola, be issued licenses by the government. Discussion of the Bill was deferred to Tuesday.

Proceedings of the Lok Sabha were adjourned till 2 pm as a tribute to sitting member Ramchandra Paswan who passed away on Sunday. Condolences were also expressed over the demise of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit.

The Rajya Sabha passed the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which provides for a reduction in tenure of chairpersons of national and state human rights bodies to three years from the current five years.

Participating in the debate on Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019, moved by Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai, Congress’ Vivek K Tankha expressed apprehension that the proposed changes in the law would empower the government to handpick members. He said the government should have brought "functional amendments" in the existing law and not "cosmetic" ones, adding that larger issues would have been addressed if the Bill was sent to the Standing Committee.

Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav said the Bill had various "discrepancies" which would weaken the existing law, while BJD’s Prasanna Acharya stressed on a large number of vacancies in human rights commissions. Congress’ Madhusudan Mistry, RJD’s Manoj Kumar Jha, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut and DMK’s Tiruchi Siva were among the other members who criticised the amendments sought to the Bill.

As soon as the House mourned the death of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and listed official papers laid on the table of the House, Opposition members began their protests. Amid unrelenting sloganeering, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu adjourned the House till noon.

The Upper House saw repetitive disruptions during the day, with Opposition members creating an uproar amid Question Hour. Opposition members soon trooped into the well and started raising slogans highlighting various issues like the political crisis in Karnataka, killings in Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh and mob lynching in Bihar. Protests were voiced by members of Congress, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, DMK, Trinamool Congress, CPI, CPM, RJD and AAP. The House was adjourned till 2 pm, only 10 minutes after it met at noon.

The House was again adjourned till 3 pm after TMC’s Derek O’Brien and Congress’ Anand Sharma sparred with BJP leaders about not giving two days’ notice to the members to file amendments to the draft law. O'Brien blamed the Deputy Chairman Harivansh for not conducting the business in a congenial environment.

Updated Date: Jul 22, 2019 23:16:38 IST