Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday assured a delegation of National Campaign for People’s Right To Information (NCPRI) that he would convey their concerns regarding amendments to the RTI Act to exempt the political parties from its purview to leaders of the two houses of Parliament.
The NCPRI delegation led by former National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy urged the PM to get the amendments referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee or a select committee for further consultations. The delegation also handed over petitions against the RTI amendments signed by over one lakh people to Singh.
“The PM told us that the amendments were now the property of the Parliament and the decision in this regard will be taken by the Parliament. He also assured that he would convey their concerns regarding the amendments to the Parliament,” Anjali Bhardwaj of the NCPRI said, after a half an-hour long meeting with the PM.
However, the minister in-charge can suggest referring a bill to a Parliamentary committee for wider consultations. The government had introduced the RTI amendments in Lok Sabha last week but the discussion on them is expected this week. The amendments were introduced without any public consultations as being sought by the civil society.
The PM told the delegation that the political parties had apprehensions that bringing parties under the ambit of the RTI Act will jeopardise their internal freedom. Roy and others countered it by saying that the perception was not correct as RTI has not affected freedom of the government and other institutions in any manner.
They also told the PM that the government’s decision to amend the law to nullify the June 2013 Central Information Commission order bringing the parties under the RTI law has resulted in negative perception about the political class in the eyes of common citizens.
Bhardwaj said the PM was open to hearing their arguments and was engaged but refused to give any assurance saying the amendments were property of Parliament.
The NCPRI delegation also raised the issue of pending accountability legislations – Lokpal, Grievance Redressal and Whistleblower Bill. The PM assured that he will take up the issue with respective ministers.