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Bill to keep political parties out of RTI sent to Par panel

Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy, who piloted the RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2013 in the Lok Sabha last month, informed the House that in a bid to hold wider consultations, the government is recommending that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Law and Personnel.

Several members from opposition supported the decision. The move comes in the wake of opposition to the proposed amendment to the RTI Act from NGOs, civil society and information activists, who claimed that it will defeat the very purpose of the transparency law.

The amendment bill is also aimed at negating a Central Information Commission (CIC) order which said political parties were public authorities and should come under RTI Act ambit.

The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2013 seeks to insert an explanation in Section 2 of the Act which states that any association or body of individuals registered or recognised as political party under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 will not be considered a public authority.

The CIC order had termed Congress, BJP, BSP, NCP, CPI and CPI-M as political authorities. Since the CIC order on six major political parties came on 3 June, the amended Act will come into force with retrospective effect from June.

The CIC order is still "operational", meaning people can seek information on political parties through RTI application. Government had already made it clear that it will not challenge the CIC order in High Court - the appellate court - but bring a bill to negate the verdict. 

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