Prominent civil society activists have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and urged him not to introduce a bill to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act without consulting the stakeholders as promised in Parliament.
The UPA government is considering amendment to the RTI Act to keep political parties out of its ambit.
Former National Advisory Council members Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander, along with RTI activists Shailesh Gandhi and Shekhar Singh, have written to Singh and warned that any amendment to the Act would further dampen the credibility of the Congress-led UPA government.
“Such a move to amend the Act will reinforce and confirm the suspicions of many that the political establishment intends to cover acts of corruption and arbitrary use of power,” says the letter.
“Perhaps the only real argument for the credibility of the government continues to be the enactment and implementation of the RTI Act. The use of the RTI is, therefore, seen as the one stated intent of the government to lay itself open to scrutiny, and therefore accountability."
In June, the Central Information Commission had brought six national political parties under the RTI ambit, on the grounds that they received substantial financial support from the government and were public authorities.
The activists want that the government hold consultations with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), just like it did with political parties, before the RTI amendments are introduced in Parliament.
The letter says the legislation has been acknowledged in India and abroad as an affirmation of the right of Indian citizens to participate in, and monitor, democratic governance.
The activists also stated that this was not the first attempt to amend the RTI law enacted in 2005. The letter says attempts since 2006 to amend the RTI Act have been nullified to a large extent due to public pressure as well as political will of a part of the establishment.
However, the activists said they were confident that the government would recognise their demand, and not take steps to amend and thereby dilute the RTI Act.