Legislative process too important to be left to legislators alone: Pranab Mukherjee
‘India is an ideal that is fulfilled by various diversities and it cannot be compartmentalised and straitjacketed’
In mounting criticism of the government, former President Pranab Mukherjee has asserted that public consultation is necessary for laws to be fruitful and the business of drafting legislation cannot be left only to elected representatives.
In the wake of the recent amendments in the RTI Act by the Narendra Modi government, Mukherjee's comments are important, since he was citing his experiences as a senior minister in the Manmohan Singh government during the drafting and passing of the Act.
“Indian democracy has taken a new dimension. We believe that if it needs to be successful, it must not be confined to the wisdom and knowledge of around 780 members of Parliament and around 4,200 members of 29 legislative assemblies. It's a land of 1.3 billion people, if the views of the legislators and their wisdom were enough, we could not have got the RTI Act as it was before the amendment," the former president said.
Mukherjee said he has not gone through the amendments brought to the Right to Information Act in detail, but "before that, it was a quality piece of legislation."
He was speaking at an event organized to confer Paulos Mar Gregorios Award, 2019 on socio-political activist Aruna Roy and her organisation MKSS for contributions to the Right To Information campaign. The award is instituted by the Sophia society, an organisation under the aegis of the Delhi Diocese of the Orthodox Church in India, also called the Malankara Orthodox Church.
The former president said the RTI Act was a quality legislation because it was based on the experiences of Aruna Roy and her colleagues who worked at the grassroots.
The remarks come as Parliament last week passed the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, that proposes to empower the Centre to set the salaries and service conditions of information commissioners at central and state levels. The Modi government's move has triggered protests from the opposition and RTI activists. Critics say that the amendment seeks to undermine the authority and independence of the information commissioners.