The cabinet’s decision to amend the Right To Information (RTI) Act is being roundly criticised by activists, who say it could result in an erosion of transparency and accountability to the detriment of democracy.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) had passed an order June 3 to bring six national political parties under the ambit of the RTI Act, since they receive substantial funding from the government.
“The government has used sheer brute power to nullify the CIC order. They have again failed to live up to the transparency and accountability that they promise in every election manifesto,” Venkastesh Nayak of the Commonwealth Humans Rights Initiative (CHRI) said.
“It is a poor decision, taken in bad taste. It is certainly an erosion of democracy. They should have had the basic courtesy to at least hold a dialogue with the public, as it is a decision on the citizen’s fundamental rights,” Shailesh Gandhi, RTI activist told IANS.
The union cabinet Thursday approved an amendment to the RTI Act which would be introduced and passed in the monsoon session of parliament.
“Unanimity amongst political parties is quite usual, whenever their mutual interests are involved, and naturally these are against public interests,” said Subhash Kumar Agarwal, another activist.
However, in 2009, when Prithviraj Chavan was minister of state of personnel, public grievances and pensions, he had assured parliament that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and social activists would be consulted on the proposed amendments.
“This is not the way, it is totally a contempt of the assurance given to the stakeholders in parliament. The representatives of all political parties have stated that they believe the CIC decision is unsound legally and hence they are opposing it. If they are being truthful, they can certainly go in a writ to the courts,” said Commodore Lokesh Batra, an activist.
There are also several online petitions addressed to the president, the prime minister, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj, opposing the proposed amendement to the RTI Act.