Caveat to block unilateral stay on CIC order on political parties

Activist organisation Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) that secured the Central Information Commission (CIC) order bringing all political parties under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, today filed a caveat before the Delhi High Court, in a move to pre-empt a unilateral stay on a possible appeal by political parties against the CIC order bringing political parties under the covergae of RTI.

The caveat makes it obligatory for the court before passing an order in the case, to hear one of the two parties on whose application the CIC ruled that political parties be covered by RTI.

CIC had passed the order on two applications filed by the ADR and RTI activist SC Agrawal.

In its order passed on Monday, the CIC said the six national parties, including the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Communist Party of India (CPI-Marxist), Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), have an obligation to reveal their sources of income as these parties are also substantially funded, although indirectly, by the central government as well.

The CIC order makes the parties answerable to the citizens regarding their source of funding, how they spend money and choice of candidates for elections, among other issues.

Political parties can challenge the CIC order in a high court or the Supreme Court.

''We have this morning filed a caveat in the Delhi High Court so that no party can get stay on the CIC order without we being apprised of,'' Anil Bairwal, national coordinator ADR, said in New Delhi.

ADR moved the caveat following opposition by all major political parties, including the Congress and opposition Bhartiya Janata Party, to the CIC order bringing political parties under the Right to Information Act.

The parties were all one in terming the CIC move as an ''adventurist'' approach that would harm democratic institutions.

''It is not acceptable. We totally disagree with it. Such adventurist approach will create a lot of harm and damage to democratic institutions,'' AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters in New Delhi.

Meanwhile, the activists said they are in the process of seeking extension of the ruling, which currently applies to six major national political parties, to regional parties as well.

''Right now, this is applicable only to national parties but we are trying that this should be extended to regional parties as well. The process for it has already started,'' Anil Bairwal of ADR said.

Bairwal wondered why political parties are opposing an order that will bring transparency and accountability in their workings rather than welcoming it.

''The data obtained by us under RTI show that lands worth crores have been allotted to various political parties and they also get 100 per cent tax exemptions on donations. But no political party is ready to provide list of their donors and how the money is being used,'' he said.

The CIC on Monday ruled that political parties are public authorities under the RTI Act as they perform public functions and now need to respond to RTI queries within six weeks.