Are the views of the AG and the Law Ministry similar on RTI amendment bill?
A meeting of the Parliamentary Committee examining the question whether the political parties should be within the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 has brought to fore that the Ministry of Law and the Attorney general are not unanimous in their view regarding. In its order dated June 3, the full bench of Central Information Commission (CIC) had held that the six political parties - Congress, BJP, BSP, NCP, CPI and CPI (M) - are public authorities as defined under the RTI Act.
The Law Secretary B.A. Agarwal and other senior government officials defended the RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2013 while deposing before the Standing Committee on Law and Personnel claiming that a defence was necessary to keep political parties out of the purview of the RTI Act.
The officials cited the explanation in the bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in August which reads: “The government considers that the CIC has made a liberal interpretation of Section 2(h) “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted (a) by or under the Constitution; (b) by any other law made by Parliament; (c) by any other law made by State Legislature; (d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any- (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government; of the said (RTI) Act in its decision. Declaring a political party as public authority under the RTI Act would hamper its smooth internal working...further, the political rivals may misuse the provisions of RTI Act...”
However, when AG Vahanvati appeared before the Committee, he reportedly said that political parties can come under the purview of the RTI Act as there were sufficient provisions in the law to shield political parties from undue harassment by rivals. The Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee Shantaram Naik desisted from commenting on the evidences given by the different persons.