Finally, political parties are now under RTI scanner

Jun 04, 2013, 05:45 IST | Priyankka Deshpande

CIC yesterday ruled that political parties were now answerable regarding funding, expenditure and selection of poll candidates; the decision has made netas restless, but RTI activists say that it will usher in transparency

The much-awaited decision of bringing political parties under the scanner of Right to Information (RTI) Act has finally taken the colours of the forthcoming Lok Sabha election across the country. The Central Information Commission (CIC) yesterday ruled that the political parties were, henceforth, answerable regarding the party funding, expenditure and selection of poll candidates.

The CIC ruling came in response to a slew of petitions filed by senior advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan and Delhi-based RTI activist Subhash Aggarwal among others.

On the one hand, the decision has made political parties restless, while on the other hand, RTI activists have welcomed it stating that it would bring utmost transparency in the political system of the nation.

Bhartiya Janata Party MLA Girish Bapat said that his party would not have any problem in declaring its expenditure. However, giving out information about the funding source of the party would be tough as it will be difficult to keep an account of funds received as a compliment from well wishers.

“Many times, our well wishers bear our expenses or give donation to the party and don’t want their identity revealed. In such a scenario, it will be difficult for us to provide this information to the public,” said Bapat, who thinks that providing information to public would be a breach of privacy.

RTI run up
The discussion to bring political parties under the RTI ambit was in since two years. Last year, the CIC held a hearing following a public complaint that political parties did not provide information under RTI. However, a decision could only be taken yesterday.

“Many times it has happened that this Act has been misused by people for their interests. It is liable for us to provide information about party funding to the Election Commission of India. However, providing information about selection of poll candidates would be a strategic setback to the party,” said Congress MLC Mohan Joshi.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s State General Secretary Anil Shidore said that, although the stand taken by CIC was welcome, there should be some guidelines set in this regard. “It might be possible that people would ask to give details about the criteria used for selection of poll candidates a few years back. As we don’t keep such records and don’t have any file system in this regard, it would be impossible for us to provide the information,” said Shidore.

Activists speak
City-based RTI activist Jugal Rathi said that as the decision makers of the nation, the political parties should always be questioned. However, so far, they couldn’t come under public domain and therefore they had the right to refuse to provide the information to the public.

“The Commission in its decision said that all national parties are now considered as public authority and therefore they would be liable to come under RTI,” said Rathi. While another RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar said that the decision would not only bring transparency in the governance of a political party but also would make it answerable to the people of the nation.

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