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CIC to seek political parties' income tax details

November 04, 2012 14:38 IST

The Central Information Commission will seek a report from Income Tax department and Directorate of Estate regarding tax exemptions claimed by political parties and their assets to ascertain whether there is enough indirect funding from the government to bring them under the ambit of RTI Act.

The CIC is considering the case whether political parties which receive benefits from the government in the form of subsidised buildings for offices, free air-time and various tax exemption come under the RTI Act.

According to section 2(h) of RTI Act, NGOs substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government are liable to reply to queries sent under the transparency law.

CIC sources said they had received representation from the Association of Democratic Reforms giving break-up of tax exemptions claimed by the donors of political parties and by political parties themselves.

They said a missive is likely to be sent on Monday to the Income Tax department, Directorate of Estate and respondent political parties -- Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Communist Party of India, CPI-Marxist and Nationalist Congress Party -- seeking details of tax exemptions and buildings allotted to them on cheaper rents.

When contacted, Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra said the need for such a move was felt to ascertain the extent of direct or indirect funding by the government which would enable the Commission to take a view on including political parties under RTI Act.

The sources said ADR, which is one of the appellant in the case, had submitted the details of I-T exemption received by the political parties and the Commission wants to verify the interpretations given by ADR on the exemption data.

The commission is also finding it difficult to ascertain the present rental rates of buildings given by the state governments to political parties for setting their offices as such offices are spread till district and taluka levels.

The sources said CIC would limit its notice to Directorate of Estate under Union Urban Development Ministry in national capital because jurisdiction of the central panel does not allow it to seek information from the state governments.

In its submission, ADR had submitted before the CIC, "Political parties get substantially financed by a very large amount by getting tax exemption on all their income. In addition all the major political parties have been also provided facilities for residential and official use by Directorate of Estates.

"They have been given offices and accommodation at prime locations like Akbar road, Raisina road, Chanakyapuri etc and are charged only a token of money as rent or dues. These facilities are not just provided to them at marginal rates but their maintenance, upgrade, modernisation, renovation and construction is also done at state expense."

The social activists strongly feel that political parties are getting enough indirect funds in the form of real estate, tax exemption and other facilities which bring them under the ambit of the RTI Act.

When contacted, member of Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory Council Aruna Roy said political parties should be covered under the RTI Act because they get enough indirect funding.

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