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Bill excluding parties from RTI tabled in Lower House

Jul 13, 2013

A proposed Bill that will bring the political parties and politicians under the RTI scanner is being sent for amendment to India's Lower House; which creates a tussle between activists who want transparency and politicians who wants to stay safe.

Even as an amendment Bill that aims to keep political parties out of the gaze of the RTI was tabled in Parliament on Monday, civil activists vowed that they will contest the move in the courts should it get legislative nod.

The Bill enjoys the support of the entire political class and is aimed to nullify a June 3rd Central Information Commission (CIC) order that said the political parties too should be subject to RTI.

“Activists and NGOs will move court if Parliament approves the proposed amendments,” said Venkatesh Nayak, coordinator, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).

At first glance, the amendment Bill seeks to exclude political parties from the purview of the RTI Act and will have retrospective effect if enacted in this form. “So it effectively nullifies the CIC's order of June 2013 declaring six political parties — BJP, BSP, NCP, CPI and CPI-M — as public authorities,” he said.

A preliminary analysis indicates that the amendment suggested in the Bill violates the right to equality and equal treatment to all persons guaranteed by the Constitution under Article 14. It seeks to treat political parties as a separate category from other substantially-financed non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Nayak said.

Sources said that government was likely to pass the Bill in this session. Parties have time till end-August to comply with the CIC order or face proceedings.

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