Serving a body blow to the secrecy under which major political parties, especially in terms of funding, operate, full bench of the Information Commission has decreed that political parties – Congress, BJP, CPI(M), CPIO, NCP and BSP, be brought under the Right To Information ambit.
Setting aside an order of a single bench, the full bench consisting of Chief Information Commission Satyananda Mishra, Information Commissioners ML Sharma and Smt. Annapurna Dixit in response to a compliant by Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Subhash Chandra Aggarwal today decided:-
“.. we hold that INC, BJP, CPI(M), CPIO, NCP and BSP have been substantially financed by the Central Government under section 2(h)(ii) of the RTI Act. The criticality of the role being played by these Political Parties in our democratic set up and the nature of duties performed by them also point towards their public character, bringing them in the ambit of section 2(h).
The constitutional and legal provisions discussed herein above also point towards their character as public authorities.
The order of the Single Bench of this Commission in Complaint No. CIC/MISC/2009/0001 and CIC/MISC/2009/0002 is hereby set aside and it is held that AICC/INC, BJP, CPI(M), CPI, NCP and BSP are public authorities under section 2(h) of the RTI Act.”
The full information commission bench decreed:-
“The Presidents, General/Secretaries of these Political Parties are hereby directed to designate CPIOs and the Appellate Authorities at their headquarters in 06 weeks time.
The CPIOs so appointed will respond to the RTI applications extracted in this order in 04 weeks time.
Besides, the residents/General Secretaries of the above mentioned Political Parties are also directed to comply with the provisions of section 4(1) (b) of the RTI Act by way of making voluntary disclosures on the subjects mentioned in the said clause.”
ADR in October 2010 had filed RTIs, seeking information regarding contributions received by the various political parties.
Barring CPI all other political parties refused to disclose information stating that they don’t come under RTI act.
Subsequently, a complaint was filed with CIC in March 2011 requesting that political parties should be declared as public authorities.
The hearing to the complaint was held on 26th September 2012 and 1st November 2012.
With the delivery of this landmark judgment, political parties have been brought under the ambit of RTI as they have long resisted opening themselves to public scrutiny.
Various organizations and many people have long been demanding that there should be complete transparency in their financial and internal functioning.
Various commissions including Law Commission report, Election Commission and NCRCW have already recommended that political parties should demonstrate transparency through various measures.