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HindustanTimes Wed,17 Sep 2014

Govt to refer RTI amendment to standing committee

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 24, 2013
First Published: 17:24 IST(24/8/2013) | Last Updated: 17:52 IST(24/8/2013)

Bowing to growing people pressure, the government has finally decided to ask a Parliament committee to examine the amendments to RTI Act exempting political parties from its ambit.

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“I have written to Speaker Lok Sabha (Meira Kumar) to refer the RTI Bill to a committee,” minister for personnel V Narayanasamy told HT on Saturday.

The bill to nullify the Central Information Commission order bringing six parties under the transparency law was introduced in the lower house last week and was slated for discussion next week.

A delegation of National Campaign For People’s Right To Information (NCPRI) has met Narayanasamy earlier this week and urged him to refer the bill to a Parliamentary standing committee for public consultation on the government move to introduce for the first time amendments in the RTI act in Parliament.

Sources within the government said that there was pressure from the Congress to accept the demand of RTI activists as decision to amend the transparency law had not gone down well with people.

“We are at a receiving end on the RTI issue,” a senior Congress leader admitted.

Asking the Speaker to refer the bill to a standing committee is a tactical move as any opposition would shift the blame from the government to those parties. “Why should we receive all brickbats when all major political parties had asked the government to amend the RTI law and assured of full support,” a government functionary said.

Some political parties such as Trinamool Congress and Biju Janata Dal have opposed the RTI amendments. As many as 20 BJP MPs have told information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that they did not agree with the amendments but will have to toy the party line.

The government’s decision shows the growing impact of social media, where a vigorous campaign was launched. Over one lakh people signed an online petition being anchored by young Indians in London and America. There was a dedicated campaign on other social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

“We used the digital platform to record people’s dissent,” said Ventakesh Nayak of NCPRI.

It evoked huge response from different hues with people such as Bharat Wakhlu, director at Tata Group, Vishal Dadlani Bollywood music director, Nepal Sarkar, former secretary of Bangladesh information commission, Julio Ribeiro former Punjab’s director general of police and Theodore Bhaskaran, famous Tamil writer signing the online petition.


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