HindustanTimes Sat,27 Dec 2014

People’s views not reflected in RTI committee report

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 19, 2013
First Published: 00:51 IST(19/12/2013) | Last Updated: 00:57 IST(19/12/2013)

A day after a parliamentary committee submitted a report recommending the exemption of political parties from the ambit of the Right to Information Act, a civil society body accused the panel of bias, saying the submissions made by citizens were not considered in the right context and made public.

“The committee’s chairperson was biased in favour of supporting the amendment proposal and it was clear from his alleged comments during public consultation on the proposed amendments,” said Venkatesh Nayak an RTI advocator who is also associated with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

“I also know for a fact that the submissions of at least two civil society representatives who sent their inputs in a timely manner and one of whom deposed before the Committee do not find mention in the committee’s report,” Nayak said, surprised at the Rajya Sabha secretariat prohibiting people from making their submissions public.

The RTI activists are also surprised that only 15 days’ time was given to them for submission.

The committee, headed by Shantaram Naik, had brushed aside the recommendation of attorney general GE Vahanvati on bringing the parties in the RTI ambit, saying the “laws should not be laid down through a process of misinterpretation of the clear provisions of the law”.

Naik told HT on Wednesday the submissions made by all were considered and it would be wrong to say that the Central Information Commission’s order on bringing the parties in the RTI ambit was correct. “The RTI law nowhere mentions that the parties are covered under the transparency law and we went by the correct interpretation.”

Former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi was dismayed at the report and said the committee did not “fairly” put forward the views of civil society and public hearing was not done properly.

“I came to Delhi and made a submission. It is not even reflected in the report. They (the committee) had made up their mind and just went through the motions (of it),” he said, adding that the civil society groups would soon launch a campaign if the political parties tried to push the amendments through in Parliament.

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