Attorney General says political parties can come under RTI ambit, government officials differ

Law ministry and attorney general are on different pages over the much criticized move to exclude political parties from the ambit of the Right To Information (RTI) act.

The new development came into the limelight following during a meeting of the Parliamentary panel evaluating the proposed move.

Attorney General says political parties can come under RTI ambit, government officials differ. The attorney general made his opinion on the matter clear while appearing before Parliament’s standing committee (departments of law and justice; personnel, public grievances). He urged that all political parties across the country should not shy away from accepting the Central Information Commission (CIC) June 3 ruling that recommends including political parties within the ambit of the RTI act.

In June this year, the CIC has labelled the main political parties in the country, including Congress, BJP, CPI, CPI (M), NCP and BSP as authentic political authorities.

“We have no hesitation in concluding that INC/AICC, BJP, CPI(M), CPI, NCP and BSP have been substantially financed by the central government and, therefore, they are held to be public authorities under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act,” read the CIC ruling.

Vahanvati also disregarded the notion that by bringing them under RTI ambit would make political parties vulnerable to various potential causes of embarrassment and harassment.

However, government officials are mostly of the view that a shield is required to safeguard political parties from being included into the RTI ambit. The cause behind this apparent reluctance was also cited in a bill introduced into the Lok Sabha a couple of months back.

The bill explains: “The government considers that the CIC has made a liberal interpretation of Section 2(h) of the said (RTI) Act in its decision. Declaring a political party as public authority under the RTI Act would hamper its smooth internal working…further, the political rivals may misuse the provisions of RTI Act…”.

It is worth mentioning here that the CIC’s order is currently fully operational, meaning people can seek information from political  parties under the RTI act.