Determined to keep political parties out of the purview of the right to information (RTI) law, the Manmohan Singh government has asked Lok Sabha Speaker not to refer the amendment to the RTI Act to Parliament’s standing committee and place the bill directly before MPs for passage.
The recommendation was made by the department of personnel and training (DoPT) last week, days after the PM told RTI activists that it was for Parliament — and not the government — to take a call on referring the legislation to the standing committee.
Though on record senior ministers maintain the final decision on whether any bill is to be referred to a parliamentary committee for further scrutiny rests with the Speaker, based on the views of different political parties, the government has informally conveyed that it wants the bill to be passed during the ongoing Monsoon session itself.
This means the amendment to exempt political parties from the RTI could be discussed and passed by both Houses of Parliament before September 6. The government confidence is based on the fact that with the exception of the Trinamool Congress and the BJD, all other political parties are united in being kept out of the transparency act.
A reference to the standing committee would not only have given RTI activists time to lobby support but also provided an opportunity to address concerns of political parties.
The issue snowballed into a major controversy with the June 3 order of the Central Information Commission, which held that the six major political parties received subsidies from the exchequer and were thus answerable to the people under the RTI.
All major political parties slammed the CIC ruling.
The UPA responded by deciding to change the law to negate the ruling. The Opposition too quickly extended its support at the all party meet on 13 August.