Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Prashant Bhushan files plea in SC to bring political parties under RTI on behalf of ADR

Urging the Supreme Court to declare all the national and regional political parties as "public authorities" and bring them within the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and RTI activist Mr. Subhash Chandra Agrawal yesterday filed a petition in the Apex court.

Seeking transparency and accountability in the functioning of recognised national and regional political parties, the plea, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, also urged the court to direct all such parties to disclose details regarding their income and expenditure. The petitioners also sought the entire details of donations and funding received by the political parties, irrespective of the amount donated as well as the full details of the donors making donations to them and to the electoral trusts.

It is to be noted that currently, political parties are required to disclose information of only those donors who donate above Rs 20,000. As this is required only to enjoy tax exemption, those parties who do not submit their contribution reports are not penalised.

“This petition has been necessitated by the arrogant defiance of the lawful decision of the Central Information Commission by six national political parties. The decision of the Supreme Court will determine whether the law of the land applies to political parties or are political parties above the law. We certainly hope the Supreme Court will uphold the law,” said Prof. Jagdeep Chhokar, Founder Trustee, ADR.

Central Information Commission (CIC), on June 3, 2013, had declared six national political parties, namely the INC, BJP, CPI(M), CPI, NCP and BSP to be “public authorities” under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, on a complaint filed by ADR and Mr. Agrawal.

However, none of the six political parties complied with the said order. After 22-month-long wait on non-compliance, the CIC on March 16, 2015 declared that its June 3, 2013 order was “legally correct” and “final”. The CIC lamented that the RTI Act does not provide the Commission with adequate powers to deal with the contempt and non-compliance of its orders by the political parties.