Political Parties as Public Authorities: RTI, SC and CIC

Political Parties as Public Authorities: RTI, SC and CIC

Question: Political parties represent people and take decisions on their behalf yet resist being listed as Public Authorities. Discuss in light of the RTI and the views of the SC and CIC.

- SC has said that political parties should be listed as public authorities and made liable to disclose their public financial assets

- The SC has now asked the 6 national parties why they should not come under RTI

- India is closer to making these political parties accountable for their financial transactions

- In conducting financial affairs in opaque manner, certain parties have been hiding source of funding as well as extent of assets and financial holdings

- CIC has tried to bring the parties under the ambit of RTI but parties have neither refused nor accepted this

- EC which is party to the case has been unable to check on alleged financial irregularities among political parties

- EC does not have the mandate nor the ability to check claims of donations made to political parties

- While all parties have to declare donations above INR 20,000 to the EC, some parties are allegedly underreporting to evade the clause

- Donations to political parties from big businesses and corporate houses are not always voluntary and there is quid pro quo involved

- Requiring political parties to open their financial transactions and donations they receive as well as expenses they incur to public scrutiny makes them accountable

- RTI has ben held to be a part of the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) a of the constitution

- CIC has also held that political parties are answerable under RTI

- A complete bench of the Commission comprising CIC and IC held that six parties namely BJP. Congress, CPI-M, CPO, NCP and BSP to whom RTI queries were directed fulfil the criteria of being public authorities under the RTI Act

- The Bench has also directed compliance with provisions of mandatory proactive disclosure clauses under the RTI Act and place those details on their websites

- Case pertains to RTI queries from the Association of Democratic Reforms

- Three key points regarding this are indirect substantial financing by the central government, performance of public duty and Constitutional as well as legal provisions vesting them with rights and liabilities

- Large tracts of land in prime areas have been provided to political parties at low rates and many perks and privileges are available to them at cheap rates

- Bench held that income tax exemptions granted to parties and free air time provided by Doordarshan and AIR at time of elections have also contributed to indirect financing from the government

- CIC has held that political parties have to be held as public authorities under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act

- Political parties are an irrevocable part of the modern constitutional state and so they should be accountable to the public as they affect the lives of citizens directly or indirectly

- Political parties wield the power of the government; transparency will be good for state organs

Facts and Stats

- Association for Democratic Reforms has found Aditya Birla Group increased contribution to political parties fourfold in 2009-2010

- During this year, the two parties Congress and BJP received 84 crore and 82 crore respectively for funding

- NCP received INR 3 crore in donations during this period

- According to the Centre for Media Studies, political parties spent Rs 10,000-16,000 crore during the 2009 national elections. holding that less than 2% of election spending is legitimate.
Post your comment