The government has contradicted the attorney general’s stand on the issue of keeping political parties out of the Right to Information Act, saying its proposal to amend the transparency law will withstand “judicial scrutiny.”
In a written response to the parliamentary panel examining the bill to amend the act, the law ministry has stated that bringing political parties under it will lead to “unforeseen” complications.
“In our view, it appears that the proposed amendment to the RTI Act for keeping political parties out of its purview withstand the judicial scrutiny. Keeping them outside the definition of public authority is important to end their obligation of providing information,” the ministry told the parliamentary standing committee for law and justice.
Its response is in stark contrast to attorney general GE Vahanvati’s views expressed before the committee on October 22, in which he had opposed the bill introduced in the Monsoon session of Parliament. He had also expressed apprehension that such a bill could run into trouble if challenged in court.
Vahanvati is learnt to have told the committee that parties should accept the June 3 ruling of the Central Information Commission, which had brought them under the purview of the RTI Act.
The AG had pointed out that there were sufficient provisions in the law to prevent harassment of political parties by their rivals in case it was made mandatory for them to provide information under the transparency law.
Minister of state for personnel, V Narayanasamy had introduced the RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2013, in Lok Sabha on August 5.
“The CIC order would hamper the smooth internal functioning of parties…There are already provisions in the Representation of the People Act, 1951 as well as in the Income-tax Act, 1961 that deals with the transparency in the financial aspects of political parties and their candidates,” states the bill.
It was however, not taken up during the session since civil society activists and some parties wanted it to be referred to a parliamentary committee for further consultations and scrutiny.