The Times of India
New Delhi

NEW DELHI: RTI activists strongly condemned the parliamentary standing committee report excluding political parties from the ambit of the Act, describing it as an act of "arrogance" and "tragic".

The parliamentary committee in a report has said that political parties did not come under the definition of "public authorities" and so could not be brought within the Act's ambit.

Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) representatives described the report "tragic and sad". It was ADR's application with the Central Information Commission (CIC) that had prompted the June 3 order mandating that six national political parties, including Congress, BJP, CPI, NCP, BSP and SP, come under the RTI Act. Speaking to TOI, ADR's Prof Jagdeep Chhokar said, "When the whole country is moving towards transparency, the Rajya Sabha committee is making recommendations against transparency. We hope that parliament in its wisdom will turn it down. The committee has not taken the sentiments and views of the people in to account."

His colleague Prof Trilochan Sastry called the report "unfortunate". "Providing wholesale exemption to political parties is unfortunate. If parties had genuine concern they could have exempted internal party strategy or discussions but their real fear is that their sources of funding will be disclosed. Over 75% of funding for political parties is from unknown sources. We will definitely challenge it if this bill is made law," he said.

National Campaign for People's Right to Campaign to Information (NCPRI) convener Anjali Bhardwaj said that the report was ridiculous. "This is a case of complete arrogance. Political parties make a law but when it comes to a question of their own transparency, they keep themselves out of it. Anyone who is performing a public function, uses substantial public funds and holds information in public interest comes under the RTI act and political parties fit in all these parameters. The bill goes against the spirit of the law and the Constitution," she said.

Following the CIC order the government had brought in an amendment to the RTI taking parties out of the Act's ambit. The amendments were tabled in the Lok Sabha but keeping in view vociferous criticism from various sections of society the bill was referred to the standing committee.

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