Govt to amend RTI Act to exempt parties

Jul 23 2013, 09:24 IST
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SummaryThe govt has decided to seek Cabinet approval to amend the Right To Information Act.

The government has decided to seek Cabinet approval to amend the Right To Information Act instead of promulgating an ordinance to negate the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to bring political parties under the purview of the Act.

The Department of Personnel and Training has finalised a Cabinet note and has decided to seek Cabinet nod this week, sources said. The decision to drop the move to issue an ordinance was taken by the Congress leadership to avoid being viewed as the only party opposed to bringing political parties under the transparency law.

There is, however, a general consensus among all major political parties about the need to amend the RTI Act to keep them out of its purview. Barring the CPI, no other party has implemented the CIC order even though the deadline to implement it passed over two weeks ago.

Sources told The Indian Express that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also the minister in-charge of the DoPT, has cleared the proposed amendments. The government intends to introduce the Bill in the monsoon session and push for its passage. Parliamentary approval is not expected to be difficult as the move has support across the political spectrum.

The Cabinet note says the DoPT proposes to amend the definition of public authorities under the RTI Act, with the amended definition keeping all recognised and registered political parties out of its ambit.

However, the government has dropped the proposal in the ordinance finalised earlier to amend Section 8 of the Act to add all political parties to the list of entities exempted from the Act. This, sources said, has been done as it was felt that since the main amendment defines a public authority as not being a political party, there was no need to put political parties in the exempted list.

The Cabinet note also has a validation clause, declaring that the amendments will take effect from the date on which the CIC order was passed, that is retrospectively.

Since the CIC order last month, almost all major political parties have been pressuring the government to amend the Act to ensure that political parties are not under the transparency law. Sources said leaders of many parties have offered to support any Bill the government brings to nullify the CIC order.

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