Indian political parties to come under RTI ambit

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New Delhi/June 3
In a landmark judgment that will further broaden ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act and bring more accountability in the functioning of political parties, the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) on Monday ruled said that all political parties come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
After the CIC judgment, now general public has the right to get information about political parties’ functioning and funding through RTI.
As per reports, a Full Bench of Indian CIC Commissioner Satyananda Mishra and Information Commissioner ML Sharma and Annapurna Dixit ruled that six parties including Congress, BJP, CPI-M, CPI, NCP and BSP fulfill the criteria of being public authorities under the Right to Information Act.
“The Presidents, General Secretaries of these parties are hereby directed to designate CPIOs and Appellate Authorities at their headquarters in six weeks. The CPIOs so appointed will respond to the RTI applications extracted in this order in four weeks time,” the CIC bench directed.
The CIC has directed them to comply with the provisions of mandatory proactive disclosures clauses given under the RTI Act and put those details on their websites.
The CIC gave the decision on the case of RTI activists Subhash Agrawal and Anil Bairwal of Assosication of Democratic Reforms who have filed RTI queries to these political parties and had sought to know the finances of voluntary financial contributions received by these six parties and the names and addresses of the donors besides other details.
All the political parties had refused to provide information claiming that they do not come under the RTI Act.
The CIC observed that the income tax exemptions granted to the parties and free air time given by All India Radio and Doordarshan at the time of elections also substantially contribute to indirect financing from the government.
Therefore, we have no hesitation in concluding that INC/AICC, the BJP, the CPI-M, the CPI, the NCP and the BSP receive finances from Indian government and therefore, they are held to be public authorities under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, the CIC bench ruled.
The CIC further noted that ‘political parties affect the lives of the citizens, directly or indirectly in every conceivable way and are continuously engaged in performing public duty. It is, therefore, important that they become accountable to public.’
The CIC, the landmark judgment, ruled that ‘It would be odd to argue that transparency is good for all state organs but not so good for political parties, which, in reality, control all the vital organs of the State.’
The CIC also cited an order of Indian Supreme Court order where it had held that people of India must know the source of expenditure incurred by political parties during elections.

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