The government on Thursday referred an amendment Bill on the Right to Information Act (RTI) that seeks to keep political parties out of the purview of the Act to a parliamentary standing committee “for elaborate study.”

Announcing this in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Personnel and PMO V. Narayanasamy said: “The government has decided to refer the RTI [Amendment] Bill, 2013, to the standing committee of Parliament because the order passed by the Central Information Commission bringing political parties within the purview of ‘public authority’ under the RTI Act needs elaborate study.”

The Minister said if the Bill went to the standing committee, it would receive inputs from parties and its members. The House accepted the government’s decision.

The Bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 13, seeks to insert an explanation in Section 2 of the RTI Act regarding public authority. It states, “Authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted by any law made by Parliament shall not include any association or body of individuals registered or recognised as a political party under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.”

The Bill has a new Section 31 in the principal Act which says the amendment will apply “notwithstanding anything contained in any judgment, decree or order of any court or commission..,” and will prevail over “any other law for the time being in force.”

There is opposition to the Bill from some parties, civil society and RTI activists: as they claim that it will defeat the very purpose of the Act. The government rushed the Bill as the CIC, in its June 3, 2013 order, declared six parties “public authorities” under the Act.

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