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CIC reserves verdict as parties unite to escape RTI

By Vicky Nanjappa
Last updated on: November 02, 2012 17:05 IST
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A full bench comprising of Chief Information Commissioner Satyanand Mishra and Commissioners M L Sharma and Annapurna Dikshit of the Central Information Commission reserved its verdict on political funding.

It has been hearing a matter on whether "political parties should be declared as public authorities and brought under the purview of the Right to Information". Except Indian National Congress, all recognised national political parties i.e. Communist Party of India (Marxist), Nationalist Congress Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Bharatiya Janata Party sent their representatives to argue their respective cases. 

NCP said the information regarding donors might be used to threaten and intimidate them by rival political parties. The NCP also said that a large manpower would be needed to cater to the responses of RTI.

BSP deposed that no amount of funding -- direct or indirect -- is provided to the party from the government. The party's representative said the facilities such as income tax exemptions, plots of land, properties and buildings at concessional rents, free air time and other facilities don't constitute funding.

NCP expressed in front of the commission that the value of financing provided by the government to the political party is just a minute percentage of the overall income of the party.

CPI (M) expressed its worry over making public information pertaining to the inner party discussions. The party said that this type of information if it goes outside the party will be detrimental to the party's interests.

BSP contended that for a body or an organisation to be brought under RTI it has to be created by a government notification.

BJP and CPI (M) came up with a curious argument that intent while legislating the RTI Act was never to bring political parties under the jurisdiction of the act.

The Association for Democratic Reforms argued that democracy and opaqueness can't go hand in hand. "Political parties are supposed to be democratic institutions and there should be no information with parties that can't be revealed to the public at large," it said. It also said that democracy and transparency are synonymous. "Political parties have a lot to hide and that's why they are dodging from coming under RTI," it argued.

ADR also said that if political parties oppose coming under the RTI because they would need to put in place a machinery to respond to the RTI applications, then, by that logic, the Act would not have been applied to any organisation or body.

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Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru
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