Activists oppose amendments to RTI Act

New Delhi, Aug 5 (IANS) Activists Monday opposed the proposed amendments to the Right to Information Act exempting political parties from its purview.

At a press conference here, the activists condemned "the hasty and opaque manner in which the government and parties are moving amendments to the RTI Act, which will provide blanket exemptions to political parties from the transparency regime of the country".

The cabinet cleared amendments to the RTI Act, which will be introduced during the ongoing monsoon session of parliament. The move to amend the act was a reaction to a Central Information Commission order which declared six political parties to be public authorities under the RTI Act.

"Public pressure had prevented amendments being brought in as an ordinance," RTI activist Aruna Roy said. She stated that it was unacceptable that political parties were not initiating any public discussion on this issue and were moving amendments in a unilateral manner.

She added: "Political parties need to be empowered for a functional democracy but empowerment does not mean that they are non-transparent and unaccountable." She referred to the lack of public consultation on this issue by parties as a "trivialization of democracy".

Journalist Vinod Mehta said that accountability of the political process is not an ordinary battle, "this goes to the core of what we are trying to do in the country- more openness, more transparency".

He stated that if one were to observe the current debate, it was all about parties trying to protect their vested interests and fight to keep their veil of secrecy.

Civil society activist Harsh Mander said "every institution was happy to see transparency everywhere but in their own institution".

"Use of parliamentary power to address an issue which affects parties is a clear conflict of interest," he said.

The activists have also written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh opposing the proposed amendments to the RTI Act.

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