Biju Janata Dal (BJD) Member of Parliament Baijayant 'Jay' Panda on Wednesday stood up to muster support against the Right to Information (RTI) Amendment, which will ensure that political parties will be kept outside the ambit of the Act.
Using the social networking website, Facebook, Panda said there are several leaders inside Parliament who deem the Amendment as 'unconstitutional', and urged the public to contact Members of Parliament through social media and phone so that the revision is not passed on the floor of the House on Thursday.
"The battle for RTI has been building up, and tomorrow is high noon in the Lok Sabha! Want to make a difference? Now is the time. For the past couple of weeks, I have been working with many activists' and citizens'. My initial letter to the Honorable Speaker to refer it to a standing committee (where the public can also contribute suggestions) was turned down; but subsequently, all the combined efforts started yielding results, and two other MPs (Ajoy Kumar and Dinesh Trivedi) also took a stand, writing to the Speaker on the same lines," Panda wrote on the social networking website.
"Today, we had the additional gratification of having Sushma Swaraj, Gurudas Dasgupta, and some other leaders also join in making the same demand. Separately, Arun Jaitley is rumoured to have told his party that this proposed amendment is unconstitutional. Even some UPA MPs are reportedly concerned. However, not all parties are on board, and it is likely that the RTI amendment will be taken up in the house tomorrow and passed," he added.
Additionally, Panda said that he was uncertain regarding the exact number of supporters for the proposed Amendment to the RTI Act and said that the people of the country have the power to stop the alteration from being passed.
"The crucial difference, why the government can be so brazen about this, is: How many of the MP's and Parties will actually vote against the Government on the floor of the house? I certainly will, and in fact will demand a division (voting) so that a record remains of who actually stood up when it mattered," Panda said.
"I still have a hope, even if somewhat faint, that IF ENOUGH OF YOU PITCH IN NOW and contact MPs thru social media and phone, tomorrow could, just possibly, see the tables being turned," he added.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also expressed his support for opening the records of political parties to the public through the RTI Act.
The Union Cabinet had on August 1 cleared a proposal to amend the RTI Act to give immunity to political parties.
The proposed amendment would mean that educational institution and hospitals, amongst several others who acquire land at subsidised rates and funding less than 51 percent may go out of the purview of the RTI Act.
Meanwhile, political parties have maintained that the Representation of the People Act and the Income Tax Act provide sufficient transparency regarding financial aspects of political parties.
In June, the Central Information Commission, which ensures the RTI Act is implemented and public queries are answered by government departments, ruled that the six major national parties, including the Congress and BJP are public authorities and must respond to RTI applications. The parties were given six weeks to appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs) to handle RTI requests.
The decision from transparency watchdog evoked sharp reactions from political parties, especially Congress which has been credited with bringing in the transparency law but is opposed to the CIC's directive.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which acts as nodal department for the implementation of the RTI Act, in consultation with Law Ministry had earlier decided to amend the law. (ANI)