Indian RTI Amendments Referred to Committee

5 September 2013

Legislation to exempt the political parties from coverage under the Indian Right to Information Act on Sept. 5 referred to a parliamentary standing committee for further consideration.

 

“The government has decided that there should be more discussion on this Bill. We will bring this Bill in Parliament in the Winter Session,” said V Narayanasamy, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, according to an article in Zee News and one in The Hindu.

The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2013, backed by six major parties, was introduced on Aug. 13 following approval by the Union Cabinet had last month. It would effectively negate a June Central Information Commission.

Narayanasamy said the RTI Act needs “elaborate study.”

The bill would add to Section 2 of the RTI Act regarding public authority. It states, “Authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted by any law made by Parliament shall not include any association or body of individuals registered or recognised as a political party under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.”

The bill says the amendment will apply “notwithstanding anything contained in any judgment, decree or order of any court or commission..,” and will prevail over “any other law for the time being in force.”

A few some parties and RTI activists oppose passage. Biju Janata Dal leader Jay Panda is one of the few politicians who has come out against the amendment.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister M Veerappa Moily “has expressed doubts over the amendment,” according to a report by IBNLive.

The pending legislation “clouded” the annual RTI convention, The Hindu reported.

Referral to committee was advocated by opponents, who saw the action as a positive sign.

Venkatesh Nayak, the director of Access to Information Programme at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, wrote:

The tide began to turn in favour of the advocacy campaign with individual members of Parliament belonging to opposition parties and the ruling coalition publicly expressing misgivings about the Government’s attempts to rush the amendments through Parliament. Concerns were also expressed about the constitutionality of the proposed amendments. The efforts of these progressive MPs appears to have influenced a change of thinking in the minds of their party leaders resulting in critical pressure being exerted on the Government to accept the option of public consultation instead of a hasty vote on the Bill.

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