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HindustanTimes Fri,18 Apr 2014

Secret meeting on RTI in Mumbai irks activists

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 23, 2013
First Published: 13:53 IST(23/10/2013) | Last Updated: 14:33 IST(23/10/2013)

A parliamentary standing committee holding consultation on amending the transparency law to keep political parties outside its ambit in a secret manner has irked RTI activists.

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The committee, to whom the RTI Amendment Bill was referred after lot of public heat, held consultations with political parties in a five-star hotel in Mumbai recently without any prior notice to people about the meeting.

The committee had invited only two RTI activists and another two had reportedly gate crashed at the meeting. However, the standing committee asked the activists not to discuss the deliberations without anyone or they would be booked for breach of Parliamentary privilege.

Former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi in a letter to chairman of the committee Shantaram Naik said many RTI activists from Maharashtra had sent representations to the committee and requested an opportunity for a personal hearing.

“It would be very unfortunate if such a closed door meeting with two invitees and their two friends is recorded as a public consultation,” he said, asking him to conduct a properly organised consultation to hear view of the citizens in this regard.

The committee has received a large number of representations from citizens across India against the government’s move to amend the RTI Act to exempt political parties from its purview. A representation from Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative says that many nongovernment bodies have already been brought under the RTI Act for substantial funding from the government, the ground to including political parties under the transparency law.

The committee is expected to submit its report to the government before the start of the winter session of Parliament in November-December this year.

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