Political parties refuse to be brought under RTI Act

Political parties in the country, including major parties in the ruling coalition as well as the opposition, have come out strongly against the Central Information Commission's (CIC) order bringing political parties under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.

While the CIC's move will help bring six national parties, including the ruling Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, under the RTI's ambit, these parties do not want to be accountable to anyone, since, according to them, political parties do not have the government body tag.

"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," reports quoted the Central information Commission (CIC) as saying on Monday.

"Congress party is opposed to the decision taken by CIC. Political parties are not government bodies," party leader Janardhan Dwivedi said.

The Janata Dal United and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have slammed the decision saying the CIC exceeded its brief.

JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav made it amply clear that political parties do not intend to change the way they function and become accountable.

"The CIC has acted outside its jurisdiction. The government should step in. CIC doesn't understand the politics of this country," JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav said.

Issuing the notification bringing political parties under the purview of the RTI Act, the CIC had said that since government subsidises buildings and facilities for political parties, they qualify to be termed public offices, which are subject to RTI.

Political parties should function in a transparent manner and the public has the right to be informed about their functioning and funding.

A full bench of the commission comprising chief information commissioner Satyananda Mishra and information commissioners ML Sharma and Annapurna Dixit held the six parties - Congress, the BJP, CPI-M, CPI, NCP and BSP - to whom RTI queries were directed, 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 bench directed.

The CIC also directed political parties to comply with the provisions of mandatory proactive disclosures clauses given under the RTI Act and put those details on their websites.

The CIC ruling relates to RTI queries by activists Subhash Agrawal and Anil Bairwal of the Association of Democratic Reforms who had sought to know the sources of finances and details of voluntary financial contributions received by these parties after these parties refused to comply claiming they do not come under the RTI Act.