As the government appears set to push through the amendment to the right to information (RTI) law to keep political parties out of its purview this week, Shantaram Naik – who heads the parliamentary panel on personnel – insisted that there was no need for his committee to vet the “small” amendment.
RTI activists up in arms against the amendment had petitioned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and minister of state V Narayanasamy to refer the amendment to Parliament’s standing committee on law & justice and personnel for a detailed examination.
But Naik told HT there was “no need to refer the amendment to keep political parties out of the purview of the RTI Act to the committee”.
The Congress Rajya Sabha MP, on who the RTI activists had pinned their hopes on, said, “Only issues of grave legal or constitutional complexities were referred to the standing committee. Not small matters such as these.”
Naik went on to insist that the question of bringing political parties within RTI ambit only arose because of the “wrong interpretation” of the law by the Central Information Commission (CIC).
“This needs to be immediately rectified,” he said, echoing the popular sentiment among all political parties except the BJD and the Trinamool Congress.
Naik said, “Public perception may well favor bringing the political parties within the RTI law, but the legal and constitutional position was quite at variance from this.”
RTI activists, however, asked why political parties did not approach the courts if the CIC decision was not legally valid.
Naik said if the faulty concept introduced by the CIC decision was implemented, “it will lead to chaos as all information about functioning of political parties would be in the public domain. It will become impossible for any political party to function”.