Activists working to promote Right to Information (RTI) Act on Thursday welcomed the government’s decision to refer a Bill aimed at shielding political parties from providing information under the transparency law to a Parliamentary standing committee.

“We appreciate the decision taken by the government to recommend to Lok Sabha Speaker that RTI Amendment Bill be referred to the Standing Committee,” said Venkatesh Nayak, coordinator (access to information programme) of NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI).

People will have an opportunity to present their view before the lawmakers and this is how we believe that laws must be made or amended in a democracy like ours, he said.

“It is a welcome move. The government decision’s prove that it believes in Parliamentary democracy and not in Parliamentary dictatorship,” said RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal.

He said a lot of Parliamentarian has given support to the people’s movement to save dilution of RTI Act by the proposed amendments by the government.

“We have met a lot of parliamentarians to support our cause and oppose government’s move to amend RTI bill to give immunity to political parties from providing information. Most of them have opposed the government’s move,” Mr. Agrawal claimed.

Another RTI activist, Commodore Lokesh Batra, attributed the government’s decision to people’s voices.

“It has been proved that in democracy it is the people whose voices are heard. We thank government for hearing our voice. It is a message for all those people who believe that kuch nahin hota (nothing changes),” Mr. Batra said.

Advocate-cum-activist Vivek Garg said the move is people’s victory.

“Political parties must come under the RTI Act if they believe in transparency. They must be a part of transparency process,” Mr. Garg said.

Bhopal-based RTI activist Ajay Dubey said the government has earned people’s faith by referring the RTI Amendment Bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. “By seeing today’s government decision, people will have more faith in democratic process,” he said.

Mr. Dubey said political parties must come under the RTI Act and “moreover they should put all details related to fundings and contributions received by them in public domain so that people do not have a need to file applications under the transparency law.”

The Union Cabinet had on August 1 cleared a proposal to amend the RTI Act in order to give immunity to political parties from providing information.

The Cabinet’s decision had come after the Central Information Commission (CIC) had in its June 3 order held that six national parties — Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI(M), CPI and BSP — were public authorities and liable to give information under the RTI Act.

Baijayant Jay Panda, a BJD MP from Kendrapara in Odisha, has also written to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to refer the RTI Amendment Bill to a Parliamentary Standing Committee

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