SHIBA NANDA BASU
Kolkata, 4 August
RTI activists from the city urged the President of India to stop the Central government from amending the RTI Act and demanding that political parties not be left out of the RTI ambit. They said they would join a protest rally in Delhi to oppose the move.
On Thursday, the Cabinet cleared the proposal to keep political parties out of the ambit of the Right to Information Act (RTI). But RTI activists from all over India, including Kolkata, have decided to hold rallies and meetings to protest the decision. Activists have also sought the President’s intervention to stop the government from amending the Act.
An RTI activist from the city who would participate in the protest rally on 6 and 7 August outside Jantar Mantar in Delhi said that the government would next prepare an ordinance to amend the RTI Act and declare that political parties are not public authorities. Interestingly, the protest rally in Delhi will be organised by National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI), which is considered to be close to the Congress party.
"The ostensible purpose of the government is to counter the decision of the CIC declaring six political parties as public authorities which are subject to the Right to Information Act. Representatives of all political parties have stated that they believe the CIC decision is unsound legally and so they are opposing it. If they are are true, they can certainly go in a writ to the Courts. Hundreds of CIC decisions have been quashed by the courts," said Mr Amitav Choudhury, an RTI activist who would join the rally.
Mr Venkatesh, one of the conveners of NCPRI, said from Delhi that they are opposing the move and the rally would be lead by members like Ms Aruna Roy, Mr Shailesh Gandhi, Ms Anjali Bhardwaj and Mr Nikhil Dey. "We urge all RTI activist to join the rally or to organise protest rallies in their respective states," said Mr Venkatesh.
Mr Choudhury said that the Act is a landmark legislation which has empowered citizens to meaningfully participate in the functioning of our democracy. But the move of the government to amend the Act only goes to show that political parties are not willing to subject themselves to the transparency of law and are not ready for public scrutiny under the Act, he said.