PIL filed to challenge the government proposal to amend the RTI Act
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Andhra Pradesh High Court at Hyderabad challenging the action of the central government proposal to grant exemption to political parties from the Right to Information Act. In the petition, G Bhargavi, RTI activist has questioned the basis behind the government step to nullify the Central Information Commission (CIC) order by the proposed RTI amendment Bill which seems to enjoy the support of all major political parties in the country. The CIC had ruled that six national parties - Congress, BJP, NCP, CPM, CPI and BSP - were substantially funded indirectly by the government and had the character of a public authority as defined under 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 RTI Act. These political parties were required to appoint public information officers for the implementing the RTI Act.
The petitioner has argued that when other organisations which are receiving funds or assistance from the government are within the ambit of the RTI Act, there is no reason why political parties, which enjoy several privileges from the state, should be exempt. The Central government has proposed amendment to the RTI Act which would specifically exclude the political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 from the ambit of the RTI Act.
Secretary to the ministry of law and justice, Secretary to the ministry of home affairs, Election Commission of India, Congress, BJP, CPI, CPM, BSP, NCP and TDP were named as the respondents. The matter will come up for hearing on September 16.
In the meanwhile, speaking to CNN-IBN's Karan Thapar on Devil's Advocate, the Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the Bill will be brought back once it comes back from the Standing Committee. He reportedly said that the government is committed to passing the RTI Amendment Bill, which would exclude the political parties from the ambit of the Act.