Writing off the Right to Information

Presence of a particularly favored class and the consequent disparity in the social and political orders are not healthy for a democracy. Unfortunately, the Indian democracy mirrors this kind of situation more often than not. We shall find ample examples of politicians who are above the law; even if their misdeeds are proven legally, it is not a cakewalk for the concerned administration to catch them. The common man, having been a witness to this preferential treatment for years, is getting frustrated with the political class as a whole.  Reforms in the political and electoral procedures could be a means to gain back their support and admiration. But the leading political parties in India are naturally anti-reforms. It was proved once again when they opposed the recommendation of the Central Information Commission to bring Indian political parties under the purview of the Right to Information Act. Our lawmakers are even toying with the idea of framing an ordinance in the parliament to rebuff the proposal. This means that the act or bill to negate the recommendation will make its passage without a series of debates among the legislators. I hope that such a rapid exhibition of consensus will take this nation forward.

There are a couple of points in this widely accepted opposition. First, Indian political parties do not want to be defined as public authorities. Any governmental body, bodies that receive government grants and bodies formed under constitutional provisions are public authorities and comes under the purview of the RTI Act. Political parties are formed under constitutional provisions and they receive government grants on many occasions. I can’t understand how the parties entrusted with the task of representing public can detach themselves from the definition of public authority. Second, they fear that coming under the purview of the RTI act might necessitate a disclosure of their internal strategies and programs. And competitors may garner unfair advantages due to this.  But the article 8(1) of the RTI Act ensures that a body cannot be compelled to disclose any information that will discriminate it in the field of competition. And above all, one can always approach the Central Information Commission or the judiciary if they have problems with disclosing information.

So the opposition to the recommendation is contrary to the idea of democratic clarity and encourages a form of preferential treatment. In this age of widespread public anger involving the issue of corruption, it would be better for our political parties to cooperate in the process of smooth implementation of the RTI Act.


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