Immunity for political parties soon? Inter-ministry talks to amend RTI Act

New Delhi: High-level consultations are on between officials of the Ministry of Personnel and Law to decide on amendments in Right to Information (RTI) Act to give immunity to political parties from providing information after a CIC order brought them under the transparency law.

Official sources said both the ministries were discussing the idea to amend the RTI Act and a final decision on this is likely to come out soon.

The move followed the objection by political parties to the order issued last month by the Central Information Commission (CIC) that said they are public authorities and answerable to citizens under RTI Act.

BJP, Congress are seen in this file photo. Reuters

BJP, Congress are seen in this file photo. Reuters

Sources said that government may opt for an ordinance route as the six-week deadlines given to these political parties by the CIC to appoint designate information officers and appellate authorities is ending on July 15.

The Commission had in its June 3 order said six national parties — Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI-M, CPI and BSP — have been substantially funded indirectly by the central government and they have the character of public authority under the RTI Act as they perform public functions.

The Ministry of Law is understood to have shared a draft note with the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which acts as a nodal department for implementation of the RTI Act, suggesting changes in the Act to give immunity to political parties, the sources said.

The government may propose amendments to Section 2 of the RTI Act to change definition of a public authority to shield political parties. Another option being considered by the government to include political parties in the list of exempted organisations (as mentioned in Section 8 of the Act), which include central security and intelligence agencies like RAW, IB, and CBI among others.

The Centre's flagship Right to Information Act empowers a citizen to seek time-bound information on all matters of governance by paying a fee of Rs 10.

PTI

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