*“Why democracy in India is in imminent danger of disintegration?’ is a regular column on my blogging platforms to take a periodic look (say a weekly or a fortnightly or a monthly round-up of events depending on the factors in play) on political developments that are dangerous to the democratic health of the country and contribute to the process of social disintegration of the nation..”
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill 2013: When on June 3, the Central
Information Commission (CIC), in a landmark decision, had ruled that the
political parties considerably funded by public money were public authorities
and so were under the purview of the Right to Information Act, we all knew it
was just a matter of days when a morally weak and anti-reformist political
class would come with some amendment or ordinance to kill the pro-reform
Though, as per the pointers of the CIC ruling, according
to the criteria of being a public authority as delineated in the detailed
decision, only six political parties came under it, but when it came to kill
the spirit of the ruling, the whole political fraternity, the members of which
on surface look sworn enemies, came together to demand some amendment or move to
annul the CIC order. Not even a single political party was in vocal support of the
And within two months, on August 1, the Union Cabinet
cleared the ‘tailored’ amendments in the RTI Act to invalidate the CIC ruling by
changing the definition of the ‘public authority’ to keep the political parties
out of the Act (or to keep them immune from the rightful public scrutiny).
According to a media report then: “Under Section 2 of
the RTI Act, the definition of public authority in the proposed amendment will
make it clear that 'it shall not include any political party registered under
the Representation of the Peoples Act'.”
While the CIC’s landmark (and desperately required) ruling
concluded: “In view of the above discussion, we hold that INC, BJP, CPI(M),
CPIO, NCP and BSP have been substantially financed by the Central Government
under section 2(h)(ii) of the RTI Act. The criticality of the role being played
by these Political Parties in our democratic set up and the nature of duties
performed by them also point towards their public character, bringing them in
the ambit of section 2(h). The
constitutional and legal provisions discussed herein above also point towards
their character as public authorities.
The order of the Single Bench of this Commission in Complaint No.
CIC/MISC/2009/0001 and CIC/MISC/2009/0002 is hereby set aside and it is held
that AICC/INC, BJP, CPI(M), CPI, NCP and BSP are public authorities under
section 2(h) of the RTI Act.”
So logical and so required in the prevailing
sociopolitical circumstances when the ‘general perception that the whole
political class is corrupt’ has become almost absolute, to the extent that it has
become akin to a norm, a norm making politicians synonymous with corruption.
And the political response to the CIC ruling validates
this strengthening general perception. If even a trace of morality was left in
the political class, it would have welcomed this step to promote transparency,
to come out clear.
With funding, earnings and expenditure running into
billions of Rs and enjoying multiple facilities from the government agencies,
the indiscriminate run of the finances of the political parties must come under
the public scrutiny to ensure transparency. Answerability to the public - it
becomes all the more important with an Indian politics that is deeply soaked in
But an increasingly dictatorial political class finds it
difficult to think on such moral lines. Instead, whenever there is a move,
either by the public or by some Constitutional institutions like the Supreme
Court or the CIC or the Election Commission, the whole political class unites
to thwart it.
That is clearly visible yet again, when in this case, to
thwart the landmark ruling by the CIC, the political class, that takes decades
to pass important bills of common man’s concern like bills for women’s
reservation or Lokpal, is moving swiftly to pull the plug.
On August 1, the Union Cabinet cleared the amendments. On
August 12, it was tabled in Lok Sabha. The amendment bill could not be
discussed when it was scheduled to be but its passage looks imminent in the
Monsoon session of the Parliament that ends on September 6.
Though there are demands to send the amendment bill to a
Parliamentary Standing Committee to invite wider public participation before it
is passed, no one should expect that our elitist politicians would allow any
such move, what if it erodes the already debilitated credibility of Indian
Democracy even more.