Bring­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties un­der the am­bit of RTI Act will en­sure ac­count­abil­ity

India Today - - NATION - ARUNA ROY

The Right to In­for­ma­tion Act was en­acted by UPA 1, a coali­tion govern­ment which in­cluded out­side sup­port from Left par­ties in 2005. Since 2006, there have been sys­tem­atic at­tempts to amend the Act. We sat on a dharna at Jan­tar Man­tar against the amend­ment and it was sup­ported by sev­eral Op­po­si­tion lead­ers. The amend­ments were re­lated to sem­i­nal points re­gard­ing file not­ings and deny­ing ac­cess to “vex­a­tious and friv­o­lous ap­pli­ca­tions” amongst oth­ers. In an ap­peal to Cen­tral In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sion ( CIC)— at that time Wa­ja­hat Habibul­lah was the chief in­for­ma­tion com­mis­sioner— file not­ings were al­lowed. The govern­ment did not pur­sue the is­sue of amend­ments for a while. How­ever, it con­tin­ued to pe­ri­od­i­cally make ef­forts to amend the Act. Protests also con­tin­ued.

The 2006 Amend­ment and the Cabi­net de­ci­sion were still hang­ing fire. It came up in the National Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil meet­ing and with So­nia Gandhi’s in­ter­ven­tion, it was fi­nally set aside last year.

The cur­rent is­sue is the rul­ing of the CIC— bring­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties un­der the purview of the RTI. Fi­nan­cial trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity of the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment is the ba­sis of mak­ing the sys­tem clean.

The Govern­ment has used Sec­tion 24 of the RTI Act in­vok­ing in­tel­li­gence and se­cu­rity rea­sons to keep CBI and other agen­cies out of the purview of RTI Act.

The RTI Act has al­ready pro­vided a safe­guard in terms of sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion un­der Sec­tion 8 of the Act. There are sev­eral clauses in the sec­tion which pro­tect dif­fer­ent kinds of in­for­ma­tion.

It is a pity that the Govern­ment has been try­ing to un­der­mine the role of RTI. The Prime Min­is­ter has con­tin­u­ously said that it is over­bur­den­ing the sys­tem to sug­gest amend­ments. The govern­ment de­part­ments also blame RTI for keep­ing their of­fi­cials busy in col­lect­ing and re­spond­ing to queries. But if they fol­low Sec­tion 4 of the RTI Act, which man­dates all pub­lic au­thor­i­ties to main­tain their records duly cat­a­logued in a man­ner that fa­cil­i­tates the Right to In­for­ma­tion, it would re­duce the num­ber of RTIs filed.

In case of the re­cent rul­ing of the CIC on in­clud­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties, fi­nan­cial trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity un­der RTI scru­tiny is non- ne­go­tiable. All pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions, co­op­er­a­tive so­ci­eties, re­li­gious and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and NGOS should come un­der the purview of the RTI Act. That will be the real step to­wards a trans­par­ent so­ci­ety. time. The author is a so­cial and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist


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