cong, CPM, jdu united in protest; BJP sees no wrong
statesman news service
NEW DELHI, 4 JUNE: A day after the full Bench of the Central Information Commission (CIC) brought political parties under the ambit of the Right to Information Act (RTI), several leading parties, including the ruling Congress, the CPI-M and the JD-U, fiercely opposed the CIC’s ruling, making it clear that it would be “unacceptable” to them.
The CPI-M asked the Congress-led UPA government to convene an all-party meeting to discuss the “serious” implications of the CIC order.
JD-U chief and convener of the BJP-led NDA, Mr Sharad Yadav, asked the government to “scuttle” the CIC’s move, indicating that his party will raise the issue in the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament.
The principal Opposition BJP, however, saw nothing wrong in the CIC’s order, saying it was not against anything that will bring transparency in public life. The BJP, however, refrained from clearly welcoming the CIC’s ruling.
The Congress camp sent out signals that it might not opt for challenging the CIC order in the High Court or the Supreme Court. Instead, the Congress is exploring the option of amending the RTI Act to put political parties explicitly on the list of organisations and bodies exempt from the purview of the Act. This might be done as early as during the monsoon session, due to begin next month.
In a detailed statement, the CPI-M said it “cannot accept” the CIC’s order. “This decision is based on a fundamental misconception about the role of political parties in a parliamentary democracy,” the CPM said, adding, “This will interfere with and hamper the functioning of a political party.”
The CPM described as “untrue” the CIC’s reasoning that “six national parties are substantially financed by the Central government and therefore they are held to be public authorities under the Act”.
The CIC had stated in its ruling that six national parties ~ Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI-M, CPI and BSP ~ have been substantially funded indirectly by the Central government and they have the character of public authority under the RTI Act as they discharge public functions.
The Union finance minister, Mr P Chidambaram, today said the Central Information Commission’s order declaring political parties as public authorities was “rather an unusual interpretation” of the Right to Information Act.
Answering questions after a Union Cabinet meeting, the minister told reporters the order describing political parties as public authorities “strains credulity”. He said, the “intention” of the Act was to cover public authorities and not political parties. The information and broadcasting minister, Mr Manish Tewari, said the Congress was not against transparency.
‘RTI objectives can’t be allowed to run riot’
External affairs minister, Mr Salman Khurshid, said it is important to “keep practical control of RTI objectives as they can’t be allowed to run riot”. Answering a query on the CIC’s ruling, Mr Khurshid said:
There is a logic of the RTI, which is periodically reflected in its orders. That logic of the RTI Act would be gradually tested at all levels, including at levels of the courts…But it is important to keep practical control of RTI objectives because they can’t be allowed to run riot as the purpose is that people who hold public offices must be accountable to the world and to ordinary citizens…There are other areas one can go and seek information, but for that one has to go through a procedure. It is an evolving process, a balance between public interest of one kind and of another kind must be maintained.