The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that political parties should be brought under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The CIC order was issued in response to RTI applications filed by Subash Chandra Agarwal and Anil Bairwal. In the RTI application filed in 2011, both Agarwal and Bairwal had asked for details of accounts and funding of the Congress, BJP and other parties.
The Congress and BJP in their reply to the CIC, made a bland assertion that they are not public authorities under the RTI Act. The CPM disclosed some information regarding allotment of land to it by the Central Government on certain terms and conditions but has not conceded that it is a public authority under section 2(h) of the RTI Act. But the CIC rejected the contentions made by the political parties.
The CBI took a contradictory stand on the issue, while CPI leader A B Bardhan in a letter dated March 21, 2011, to Bairwal stated that the CPI is a public authority, while on the other hand another CPI leader Sudhakar Reddy, sent a letter dated September 21, 2012, to the commission stating that political parties do not fall under the ambit of the RTI Act.
However, NCP’s counsel A A Tiwari argued that free airtime granted to NCP on national television or national radio does not amount to government financing as it is popular practice in other democracies of the world.
After hearing the arguments put forth by the counsel of political parties, the CIC ruled that bringing political parties under the ambit of RTI is likely to usher an era of transparency in their functioning. It would strengthen democracy and democratic institutions.
The CIC also ruled that the political parties should answer RTI queries of Agarwal and Bairwal in four weeks.