In a landmark judgment, the Central Information Commission (CIC) on Monday ruled that political parties should be under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The president and the general secretaries of the political parties have been directed to designate Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) and appellate authorities in their headquarters within six weeks.
The ruling was given by Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra and information commissioners Annapurna Dixit and M L Sharma. The order states that, “We hold that INC, BJP, CPM, CPI, NCP and BSP have been substantially financed by the Central government under section 2(H) (ii) of the RTI Act.” The constitution and legal provisions also indicate their character as ‘public authorities’.
The CIC order directing the parties to appoint CPIOs was issued in response to RTI applications filed by Subash Chandra Agarwal and Anil Bairwal. In the application filed in 2011, both Agarwal and Bairwal had asked for details of accounts and funding of the Congress, BJP and other parties. In response Motilal Vora, treasurer All India Congress Committee, in his letter to Mishra dated May 20, 2011, said the AICC did not come under the RTI Act. BJP’s Rashtriya Prabhari Shanti Prasad Agarwal also wrote a letter to Mishra dated May 28, 2011, stating the BJP was not a public authority and so it was not obliged to provide the information. After the parties refused to disclose accounts, Agarwal and Bairwal filed an appeal with the CIC.