Amid growing clamour from civil society against government's move to amend RTI Act to exempt political parties, a member of Parliament has written to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to refer the proposed legislation to an appropriate standing committee for detailed deliberations.
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2013, which provides for immunity to political parties from providing information under the transparency law, is scheduled to come up for discussion tomorrow in Lok Sabha.
In his letter, Baijayant Jay Panda, a Biju Janata Dal MP from Kendrapara, Odisha said the proposed legislation requires thorough discussion and should not be passed in the din. The BJD MP said Election Commission's powers need to be enhanced to enforce political transparency, particularly with regard to funding and expenditure of parties.
"With respect to the merit of including political parties under the ambit of RTI, I am personally of the opinion that the correct constitutional body for this should be Election Commission, whose powers need to be enhanced to enforce political transparency, particularly with regard to funding and expenditure," he said.
"This ought to be further augmented by mandatory auditing of the accounts furnished to the EC by political parties. However, until and unless these are legislated and enacted, it would be wrong to pass the proposed amendment to RTI, particularly in the face of widespread public criticism," He said that the legislation requires thorough consideration and discussion, and should not be passed in the din as has become the unfortunate practice for several important bills recently.
Several commentators have claimed infirmities with political parties being covered by RTI, while others have pointed to similar provisions already passed by the House in the Lokpal bill, Panda said. "However, the best way to deal with this is to refer the matter to the appropriate standing committee for detailed deliberations, followed by a thorough discussion in the House," said the letter written on August 17.