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Activists to oppose India’s plan to exempt parties from RTI

Jul 01, 2013

The Indian government wants an ordinance to negate the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) recent ruling that brings political parties too into the ambit of RTI.

RTI activists have vowed to fight in the courts a government plan to move an ordinance that would keep political parties out of the purview of the transparency law.

The government wants the ordinance to negate the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) recent ruling that brings political parties too into the ambit of RTI.

Clearly, the CCI’s description of political parties as public entities, which draws them into the probing embrace of the RTI has stirred a deep sense of disquiet among political organizations across ideological divides. The information arbiter had in its order directed the six national parties to appoint public information officers to fulfill their RTI obligations.

With its potential of forcing political outfits to bare their often dubious sources of funding, the CIC order evoked an instant and unanimous howl of protest from across party lines. The Congress described the order as adventurist, saying it will damage political institutions setting off a wave of protest from all parties.

Prof Jagdeep Chhokar, co-founder of the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) said, "We will certainly challenge the order once we are clear about its rationale. The decision to amend the Act is not in the interest of transparency or democracy." Former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said, "Curtailing a citizen's fundamental right through an ordinance is akin to declaring an emergency." Gandhi said the amendments would run into strong protests.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan said the move only serves to highlight the "hollowness" of the government's commitment to transparency. "When transparency hurts them, they are united against it. Parties have only paid lip service to the RTI Act."

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