The government on Thursday referred the bill to keep six national political parties out of the ambit of the Right To Information Act to a standing committee for wider consultation, thereby meeting a demand by civil society and citizens.
The Hindustan Times was first to report on August 24 that the bill would be referred to the standing committee after an online petitioned signed by over one lakh people against the amendment was submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Minister for personnel V Narayanasamy told Lok Sabha that the government was recommending that the bill be referred to the standing committee on law and personnel for wider public consultation. Members from different political parties supported the move.
Several political parties such as Trinamool Congress and Biju Janata Dal had publically opposed the RTI amendment bill. Several BJP members were also not in favour of the change to exempt parties. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley had advocated within the party that exempting only political parties may not be tenable under law as other indirectly government funded organizations may seek similar exemption.
Sensing political trouble the government finally decided to refer the bill to standing committee after dilly-dallying for long. Singh had refused to assure a delegation of RTI activists led by Aruna Roy that it would be referred to the committee. But, official sources said, that the government thought it prudent considering growing public opinion against the amendment.
The government has brought the RTI amendment bill to nullify the Central Information Commission order of June designating six national political parties as public authorities under the law and asking them to appoint information officers to provide information to RTI applications.
Subhash Chandra Agarwal, on whose RTI petition the CIC had brought national parties under the transparency law, has already filed a complaint of non-compliance with the information watchdog. The parties were to comply with the CIC order by middle of August.