RIGHT PUNCH FOR PARTIES
Bringing political parties under the ambit of RTI Act will ensure accountability
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
AICC HEADQUARTERS, NEWDELHI