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Centre plans bill to shield parties from RTI

New Delhi, July 15, 2013, DHNS:

The Centre is contemplating bringing a Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament which would keep political parties outside the ambit of the Right to Information Act. The move comes in the wake of the Central Information Commission (CIC) declaring political parties as public authorities and directing them to appoint public information officers as per the RTI Act.

Government sources said that a Bill to exempt political parties from the ambit of the RTI Act could be introduced in the Monsoon Session of  Parliament is expected to begin on August 5. Political parties were united in challenging the CIC order which asked them to make public the list of donors.

On june 3, the CIC had asked six national political parties to appoint public information officers within six weeks, a deadline that ended on Monday.

However, the CIC does not have powers to initiate suo motu action against non-compliance by political parties, who now have 45 days to amend the RTI Act to insulate them.

I&B Minister Manish Tewari  said political parties were not intended to be brought under the RTI Act and the order by the Central Information Commission to appoint public information officers was misconceived. “If you read the RTI Act, you go back to the debate which led to its conceptualisation, if the intent was to bring political parties under it, that would have been stated,” Tewari told reporters here.

The RTI Act states that a public authority has to respond to any RTI request placed before it withing 30 days. If an RTI request is placed before any of the six political parties on Monday, an applicant can seek redress from the Commission only after a month. The Commission then will have to issue a notice allowing at least 15 days for the parties to respond.


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