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First-ever amendment to historic RTI Act tabled in Lok Sabha
Updated: Apr 19, 2014 05:30 AM , By Vidya Subrahmaniam | 36 comments
Aimed shielding political parties, the Bill draws wide protests

The Manmohan Singh government on Monday introduced the Right to Information (Amendment Bill), 2013 in the Lok Sabha overriding outrage and protests by ordinary users of the law as well as information activists, many of whom inundated the Speaker’s office with appeals and applications urging Meira Kumar to refer the Bill to a select committee.

The RTI Act was among a slew of rights-based legislation put in place by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its first term. Of the package, the RTI law was the most successful, gaining in momentum faster and wider than anyone expected. Not only empowering the ordinary citizen, it became the means to unearth scams and scandals of those in power. The biggest hit was taken by the very government that created the law. However, thanks to the huge public interest in the preservation of the RTI Act in its original form, the government, despite trying many times over, was unable to push through amendments aimed at curtailing the scope of the law and restricting the flow of official information.

The status quo changed on June 3, 2013 with the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) deeming India’s six national political parties to be “pubic authorities” under the RTI Act. The landmark judgment noted: “We have no hesitation in concluding that the INC/AICC, the BJP, the CPI(M), the CPI, the NCP and the BSP have been substantially financed by the Central government and therefore, are held to be public authorities under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.” The order meant that parties, like the government, would now be held to account, and would be especially under compulsion to reveal their sources of funding.

Genuine concerns

There were some genuine concerns about the decision impacting the functioning of parties. A major worry was that though the purpose of the order was to enforce financial transparency, in effect it would force parties to disclose their internal strategic decisions. The problem could have been dealt with by devising a way to safeguard the internal autonomy of the political parties. Instead, the parties banded together to keep themselves entirely out of the purview of the RTI Act.

The Bill tabled in the Lok Sabha proposes an amendment to Section 2 of the RTI Act which clarifies that parties would not be treated as public authorities: “Authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted by any law made by Parliament shall not include any association or body of individuals registered or recognised as a political party under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.”

The Bill also inserts a new Section 31 in the principal Act which says that the amendment will apply “notwithstanding anything contained in any judgment, decree or order of any court or commission..,” and will prevail over “any other law for the time being in force.”

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  • Yes its absolutely right to bring gov. fedrals under rti and the public authorities to. why not it can include the political parties ?
    From: dheeraj kumar tiwari
    Posted: Aug 13, 2013 at 14:03 IST
  • Stop finance by the Central government to these political parties - which act like business entities. Ask them to return all money recieved from govt.
    From: Vitta Arun
    Posted: Aug 13, 2013 at 8:35 IST
  • The proposed amendment to RTI Act makes very sad reading. Unfortunately it seems that both CIC and Government has "thrown out the bay with the bath water". Obviously the Board or Committee meetings of political parties need to be safeguarded - if they are at all minuted in the ordinary sense. But their income and expenditure and annual reports can and must be open to public gaze. Can political parties register themselves under the Representation of Peoples Act without first registering themselves under Societies Act or Trades Ubion Act or Cooperatives Act or any Trust Act?
    From: Prosenjit Das Gupta
    Posted: Aug 13, 2013 at 8:28 IST
  • Political parties affect our every day life, they also get.funded by govt. by way of subsidised land, bunglows, public funds,etc. They should come under perview. It is shame that they have tabled ammenment in parliament. Shame
    From: Sanjay
    Posted: Aug 13, 2013 at 6:21 IST
  • If Indians do not put them in place then their menace will only grow. How does it feel to have a group of people forming govt but hiding their founding and spending. That cannot b a democracy. Looks like Indians do not have any say in governance.
    From: Anil
    Posted: Aug 13, 2013 at 1:42 IST
  • This is attrocious on part of Government facing election in near future and definitely it will get the support of all political parties to save thier respective skins
    From: Rammohan
    Posted: Aug 13, 2013 at 1:31 IST
  • When it comes to "funding" parties gang up regardless of whether they're aam admi ke saath or whether they're the party with a difference!
    From: Aritra Gupta
    Posted: Aug 13, 2013 at 1:14 IST
  • RTI is one good thing done by these political parties, now they are trying to dilute the same law to favour them. It is a real shame.
    From: Naveen
    Posted: Aug 13, 2013 at 1:04 IST
  • Brilliant move by corrupt government....need to what went behind the CIC's order...i am sure many politicans hand is behind that....this is the only way Congress could have scared rest of the parties to fall in line. Corruption Rules.Countries neighbours make a mockery at Borders, Terrorist run amok,CBI is in the pockets of powerful few. Looks like Perfect Recipe for Disaster. Unless something fantastic happens from Indian voters...Like completely boycotting election. Trouble is congress will still rule through President.
    From: Naveen
    Posted: Aug 13, 2013 at 0:33 IST
  • Keep away from Voting, show your protest. We need check and balance for all pillars of democracy. Let it be any party they are not serious about curtailing black money, if they are serious they would not have supported this bill. This shows their Vision and Wisdom. If there is any legal option open, amendment should be challenged in court of law. Let's all get down to street. Its our duty to save our country. We may need to find another "Tahrir Square".
    From: Santhosh
    Posted: Aug 13, 2013 at 0:26 IST