The government wants to keep political parties out of the purview of the right to information law to prevent politicians from using the information law "with malicious intentions", according to the Cabinet note on the proposed amendment placed in public domain on Friday
This the first time that a Cabinet note has been put made public, a move in line with a 2012 Central Information Commission decision in an appeal filed by HT and Minister of State V Narayanasamy’s directions to proactively put out information .
The Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) placed the Cabinet note on its website on Friday evening even as the UPA government battled criticism over its anxiety to reverse the Supreme Court bar on lawmakers to continue in office after conviction in criminal cases.
“It is a welcome step towards transparency... Other departments too need to emulate this initiative,” RTI activist Lokesh Batra said. All cabinet notes are classified as secret documents, irrespective of how innocuous the note is.
In a departure from past practice, former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi had ruled last year that cabinet notes could be released under the information law once the bill is introduced in Parliament.
The government introduced the RTI (Amendment) Bill during Parliament’s Monsoon session but was forced to refer the proposal to the parliamentary standing committee.
The amendment to the Right to Information Act was the first verdict that the government was trying to overturn.
The Central Information Commission had ruled on 3 June that political parties were public authorities under the RTI Act and thus, needed to appoint information officers to respond to queries under this law.
Less than a month later, according to the note, the DoPT first proposed promulgating an ordinance to nullify the CIC decision. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh approved the ordinance on 9 July but it was later decided to place the proposal before Parliament instead.
The note also reveals that the government reformulated the amendment after the legislative department pointed that the provision “suggested by the Department of Legal Affairs would confine only to the 52 recognized (National/State parties) out of 1,444 political parties registered with the Election Commission as on 18 January 2013.”
“This will bring in an incongruous situation, which could be avoided by adding the Explanation covering all the political parties registered with the Election Commission,” the legislative department said in its opinion.