The proposal to amend the Right to Information Act to exclude political parties from its purview has thankfully been deferred and referred to a parliamentary committee for consideration (“Saved for now,” Sept. 7).
But by doing this, the government has only postponed the inevitable to a future date as all the parties are bent on ensuring that the CIC order is not implemented.
There is hope as some MPs are still trying to ensure the accountability of the political class through the RTI. Let us wish the standing committee will protect the law from the proposed amendment.
Politicians should not forget that their attempts to evade the RTI raise some serious questions. Why do they want to avoid answering the public when their programmes are meant for it? Why should they be averse to declaring the details of their assets if they have nothing to hide?
Political parties should be left out of the ambit of the RTI Act because the donations they receive are from well-wishers, not taxpayers. But they should follow the Election Commission’s guidelines on the declaration of assets and expenses during the elections.
Bringing political parties under the RTI, although welcome, will not automatically lead to transparency in political funding. Parties will continue to show donations to be under Rs.20,000. Making political funding transparent is a must to free politics as well as business from corruption. The first step should be to mandate that all donations be made by cheques.