A bill to amend the RTI Act aimed at giving immunity to political parties from providing information under the transparency law is slated to come up for discussion in Lok Sabha tomorrow. The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2013 has already been introduced in the Lower House by Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions V Narayanasamy. 'Narayanasamy to move that the Bill to amend the Right to Information Act, 2005 be taken into consideration.
Also to move that the Bill be passed,' said the list of business for Lok Sabha tomorrow. The Union Cabinet had on August 1 cleared a proposal to amend the RTI Act to give immunity to political parties. The Cabinet's decision had come nearly two months after the Central Information Commission's order of bringing six national political parties -- Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI-M, CPI and BSP -- under the RTI Act. The government has proposed an amendment in Section 2 of the Act, which defines public authority, to shield the political parties, officials said. The proposed amendments, if accepted by the Parliament, will make it clear that the definition of public authority shall not include any political party registered under the Representation of the Peoples Act, they said. The CIC had in its order on June 3 held that the six national parties have been 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 order had evoked sharp reactions from political parties, especially Congress which has been credited with bringing in the transparency law. It is pertinent to mention that Baijayant Jay Panda, a Biju Janata Dal's MP, has written to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to refer the proposed legislation to an appropriate standing committee for detailed deliberations. Panda, in his letter written this month, has said that the proposed draft legislation requires thorough consideration and discussion, and should not be passed in the din as has become the unfortunate practice for several important bills recently. A group of intellectuals, academics and representatives of civil society organisations comprising Indians residing abroad have also written to the Lok Sabha Speaker against any move by the government to water down the RTI Act.