The government is in a fix over its bill to amend the RTI Act for keeping political parties out of it, following contrary stands taken by its senior officials and the attorney general before a parliamentary panel.
In their deposition before the parliamentary standing committee on personnel, public grievance law and justice, senior officials, including law secretary BA Aggarwal defended the RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2013, but attorney general GE Vahanvati opposed it.
The government’s view articulated at the meeting on Tuesday was that the June 3 order of Central Information Commission (CIC), which stated that political parties come within the ambit of the RTI Act was not correct.
The officials pointed out that the proposed bill was important to provide protection to the political parties so that their functioning is not hampered by a flood of unwanted RTI applications.
The officials are learnt to have explained the rationale behind the bill introduced in the Lok Sabha during the monsoon session of Parliament. “Declaring a political party as public authority under the RTI Act was not envisaged by Parliament. Further, the political rivals may misuse the provisions of the Act, thereby adversely affecting the functioning of the political parties,” states the bill.
The officials informed the panel that the government has decided to amend the RTI Act to remove the adverse effects of the CIC decision.
In his deposition, Vahanvati is learnt to have told the panel that in case the political parties felt aggrieved by the CIC order, they should have challenged it in court.
He advocated bringing the political parties partially under the transparency law and is understood to have argued that there were sufficient provisions in the RTI to shield political parties from undue harassment by rivals.