Civil society groups today threatened to move court if the RTI Act amendment bill, which seeks to keep political parties outside the ambit of the transparency law, is passed by Parliament.
Terming the exclusion of political parties from the Act as "unconstitutional", the civil society groups have also rejected the nod to the amendment by the parliamentary committee entrusted with the task of reviewing the proposed amendment.
"We are hoping that Parliament will reject the report. It is an appeal we are making. If it is not rejected and the RTI Act is amended, we will challenge that amendment in court and we are 100 per cent certain that the court will strike it down," Jagdeep Chhokar, one of the founder members of Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), told reporters.
On June 3, 2013, the Central Information Commission (CIC) pronounced that political parties -- Congress, BJP, CPM, CPI,NCP and BSP -- are public authorities under section 2(h) of the RTI Act.
The government brought an amendment to the RTI Act excluding political parties from its ambit. However, due to mounting public pressure, Parliament chose to refer the Bill to a Parliamentary Committee, which invited suggestions on the proposed amendment to the RTI Act and approved it.
ADR was among the organisations which made submissions to the panel.
"The committee has not given any logical reasoning for its recommendation in its report. Excluding political parties from RTI Act is unconstitutional. It is odd to argue that transparency is good for all state organs but not for political parties, which in reality control all the vital organs of the state," Chhokar said.
He went on to add that civil society wants that political parties remain under the ambit of RTI and there is transparency.
"There is no justification given by the standing committee..It has merely said that it has reached this decision. Had they given justification, there would have been an argument," Chhokar added.
Officials from other organisations said that the standing committee did not appear to have taken into account objections to the RTI amendment submitted by civil society organisations.
SOURCE: Business Standard, January 7th 2014: http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/rti-amendment-excluding-parties-will-be-challenged-groups-113123000913_1.html