Political parties yet to comply with RTI Act

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Despite a June 2013 ruling from the Central Information Commission (CIC) that they fall within the ambit of the transparency law, parties insist that they cannot be considered public authorities under the Act.

Background:

  •  Election Commission the very next day clarified that national political parties are public authorities under RTI Act, 2005 as declared by Central Information Commission.
  • The issue goes back to October 2010, when ADR filed an RTI request seeking information on donations and contributions received by political parties.
  •  EC clarified that it goes by the CIC order of June, 2013 which declared national parties as public authorities for the purpose of RTI Act.
  • Of the six parties then recognised by the Election Commission as national parties, only the CPI accepted that it was a public authority under the Act. CPI later changed its stance
  • In an order given by election Commission in May 2018, it had held that political parties are out of the preview of RTI Act, 2005.
  • In pursuance of this, CIC had stated that all informations about contributions received by these parties as well as their annual audited accounts as and when submitted to the Commission shall be put in public domain.

Key Facts:

  • Political party form the basis of democratic system not only in participation to fight elections but also with respect to functioning of democracy. Political parties argue that they cannot be brought under RTI as they are not public functionaries.
  •  On the face, it may appear that they are not public functionary but if we scrutinise their functioning at micro level, then we find that political parties are recognised by the Constitution and other laws passed by the Parliament.
  • Tenth Schedule to the Indian Constitution provides for anti-defection law and it empowers political parties to issue whips which effectively bind its members to vote as per the party lines.
  •  Leader of opposition is statutorily mandated to be part of select committees to chose Chairperson for Chief Information Commission, Lokpal, CBI Director and CVC.
  • Various members of opposition are also part of various parliamentary committees. Hence, we can say that these members of political parties performs important constitutional and other statutory functions and helps the government in different roles.
  • So, political parties must be brought within the preview of RTI as it not only enhances transparency and accountability but also makes people aware of their functioning which helps in performing day to day activities of the government.

Source:The Hindu

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