New Delhi

Thursday belonged to the politicians. After ganging up earlier against the Supreme Court order, saying politicians in jail cannot contest elections, the cabinet in the evening approved crucial changes in the Right To Information (RTI) Act, which will exempt political parties from its ambit.  

Sources said the changes would spare parties from having to share details of their funding or the process of selecting candidates for polls. A cabinet note suggested that since the parties were already bound to disclose the source of funds exceeding Rs20,000 as well as the expenditure statement to the Income Tax and to the Election Commission, there was no need to come under RTI for the same. 

Expressing his apprehension, petroleum minister Veerappa Moily said parties ought to set the highest standards of transparency. However, parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said the government was doing it because most parties had asked for changes in the RTI Act. He said disclosing the process of selecting candidates would lead to anarchy.

Once the amendments are cleared by Parliament, parties will not be answerable to RTI queries. Nath said there was unanimity to take the parliamentary route instead of going for an ordinance.

The parties had been up in arms after the Central Information Commission brought the Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI-M, CPI and BSP under RTI’s ambit and asked them to appoint public information officers as they were substantially funded by the central government in an indirect manner. 

The government intends to change the definition of public authorities mentioned under section 2 of the RTI Act to keep all recognised parties out of its jurisdiction. The government will introduce a bill in this regard in the monsoon session of Parliament. 

The Association for Democratic Reforms has urged all MPs to not support such a bill. RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak said: “They are passing the amendments under the impression that all parties will support it. But people want greater transparency in the functioning of political parties.”


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