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Sep 05, 2013 at 06:40pm IST

Govt defers RTI Amendment Bill due to lack of consensus, likely to come up for discussion in Winter Session

New Delhi: The government on Thursday deferred the Right to Information (RTI) Amendment Bill due to lack of consensus among political parties. The amended bill will be send to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. Once the Standing Committee clears the amended bill, it will likely come for debate in Parliament in the Winter Session.

The government decided to send it to the Parliamentary Standing Committee as many parties like the Biju Janata Dal, Trinamool Congress and Communist Party of India objected to the bill.

Leaders like the BJD's Jay Panda, TMC's Dinesh Trivedi and BJP's Maneka Gandhi are among the few politicians who have come out strongly against the amendment to the RTI Bill.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Communist Party of India-Marxist are in favour of keeping parties out of the RTI.

Justifying the government's decision to defer the bill, Minister of State in Prime Minister's Office (PMO) V Narayanasamy said, "A lot of input will be given by the Standing Committee for the purpose of enabling the government to bring the amendment into the House. So the government in its wisdom decided that the bill may be referred to the Standing Committee and then the Standing Committee will submit its report before the next session of Parliament. The Winter Session of Parliament and then we will take it up before the House."

The Bill is aimed at keeping political parties out of the RTI ambit. In June 2013, the Chief Information Commissioner's office had passed an order saying political parties should come under the act as they were public authorities.

The government argued that political parties are not government or Constitutional bodies and do not take government funds hence should be kept out. Most major political parties are in agreement with the amendment except the Biju Janata Dal, Trinamool Congress and Communist Party of India.

The RTI (Amendment) Bill 2013 was introduced on August 12 in the Lower House by Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions V Narayanasamy. The Union Cabinet had cleared the proposal to amend the Act to give immunity to political parties and negate a Central Information Commission order to this effect. Many RTI activists have opposed the proposed amendments. The Cabinet's decision had come nearly two months after the Central Information Commission's order of bringing six national political parties, Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI-M, CPI and BSP, under the RTI Act.

The government has proposed an amendment in Section 2 of the Act, which defines public authority, to shield the political parties. The proposed amendments, if accepted by Parliament, will make it clear that the definition of public authority shall not include any political party registered under the Representation of the People Act, officials said.

The CIC had in its order on June 3 held that the six national parties have been substantially funded indirectly by the Central government and were required to appoint public information officers as they have the character of a public authority under the RTI Act. The order had evoked sharp reactions from political parties, especially the Congress which has been credited with bringing in the transparency law. Many RTI activists have opposed the proposed amendments.