M A I N   N E W S

Govt wants parties out of RTI ambit
Cabinet clears proposal to make amendment to Act; next stop Parliament 
Girja Shankar Kaura/TNS

New Delhi, August 1
The Union Cabinet on Thursday cleared the proposal to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act to keep national political parties out of the legislation’s ambit, a move that would keep the source of funding of political outfits under wraps.

The decision to change the RTI Act was taken during a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here after evolving a consensus among various political parties. A Bill will now be prepared to amend the RTI Act. If passed by Parliament, political parties will no longer be answerable to RTI queries. The Central Information Commission (CIC) had in June held that six national parties — Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI-M, CPI and BSP — came under the ambit of the transparency law as these were substantially funded indirectly by the Central Government and were required to appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs) as they have the character of a public authority under the RTI Act. The transparency watchdog’s decision had evoked sharp reactions from political parties.

Today’s amendment states that declaring political parties as public authorities under the RTI Act would “hamper their smooth internal functioning since it will encourage political rivals to file RTI applications with malicious intentions”.

The Central Information Commission had told the parties to create a mechanism to handle RTI queries by July 15, but the directive was ignored. RTI activists had also written to the PM to keep political parties under the ambit of the Act. The Commission had based its decision on three key points raised by complainants: substantial funding received by parties from the government, performance of public duty by them and legal provisions vesting them with rights and liabilities.

The Commission had said that since no income tax was paid by the parties, the exact quantum of rebate could not be quantified since their income would place them in the highest tax slab. At least 30 per cent of their total income would have been collected as income tax, but for the exemption given to them by law.

The parties maintained that Representation of the People Act and the Income Tax Act provide sufficient transparency on their financial aspects.

Under Section 2 of the RTI Act, the definition of public authority in the proposed amendment will make it clear that “it shall not include any political party registered under the Representation of the Peoples Act”.





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