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Reported by Zeenews.india.com on June 03, 2013

Political parties come under RTI Act, rules CIC

 

New Delhi: In a decision with far reaching consequences, the Central Information Commission (CIC) on Monday brought political parties under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

 

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As per reports, the CIC ruled that the parties would now be answerable to public as regards their funding, expenditure, selection of election candidates etc.

 

All these information would have to be provided in the form of written records.

 

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

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Political parties are under the RTI Act: CIC

 

Reported by Thehindu.com on June 3, 2013

Political parties are under the RTI Act: CIC | The Hindu

 

Setting a new benchmark in transparency in politics, the Central Information Commission on Monday held political parties are answerable under the Right to Information Act.

 

A Full Bench of the Commission comprising Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra and Information Commissioner M.L. Sharma and Annapurna Dixit held six parties -- Congress, BJP, CPI(M), CPI, NCP and BSP -- to whom RTI queries were directed, fulfill the criteria of being public authorities under the Right to Information Act.

 

“The Presidents, General Secretaries of these parties are hereby directed to designate CPIOs and Appellate Authorities at their headquarters in six weeks. The CPIOs so appointed will respond to the RTI applications extracted in this order in four weeks time,” the Bench directed.

 

The Bench also directed them to comply with the provisions of mandatory proactive disclosures clauses given under the RTI Act and put those details on their websites.

 

The case relates to RTI queries from activist Subhash Agrawal and Anil Bairwal of Assosication of Democratic Reforms who had sought to know the finances of, voluntary financial contributions received by these six parties and the names and addresses of the donors besides other details which were refused as the political parties claimed they do not come under the RTI Act.

 

During the hearing, Mr. Bairwal raised three principal points justifying his arguments that parties were under the RTI Act -- indirect substantial financing by the central government, performance of public duty and Constitutional and legal provisions vesting them with rights and liabilities.

 

“Large tracts of land in prime areas of Delhi have been placed at the disposal of the political parties in question at exceptionally low rates. Besides, huge government accommodations have been placed at the disposal of political parties at hugely cheap rates thereby bestowing financial benefits on them,” it said.

 

The Bench held the income tax exemptions granted to the parties and free air time given by All India Radio and Doordarshan at the time of elections also substantially contribute to indirect financing from the government.

 

“We have no hesitation in concluding that INC/AICC, BJP, CPI(M), CPI, NCP and BSP have been substantially financed by the central government and therefore they are held to be public authorities under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act,” the Bench ordered.

 

On the performing of public duty point raised by Mr. Bairwal, the CIC held that political parties “affect the lives of the citizens, directly or indirectly in every conceivable way and are continuously engaged in performing public duty. It is, therefore, important that they become accountable to public.”

 

“Political parties are the unique institution of the modern constitutional State. These are essentially political institution and are non-governmental. The uniqueness lies in the fact that inspite of being non-governmental, they come to weild or directly and indirectly influence exercise of governmental power.

 

“It would be odd to argue that transparency is good for all state organs but not so good for political parties, which, in reality, control all the vital organs of the State,” the Bench held.

 

Citing a Supreme Court order where it held that people of India must know the source of expenditure incurred by political parties during elections, the CIC said these judicial pronouncements unmistakably command progressively higher level of transparency in the functioning of political parties in general and their funding altogether.

 

“In view of the nature of public functions performed by political parties...we conclude that political parties in question are public authorities under section 2(h) of the RTI Act,” the Bench held.

CIC_SM_C_2011_000838_M_111223.pdf

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All political partys came under RTI...Congo all.

 

All political parties came under rti act 2005.

 

Now all indian rti activist win a fight.

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As reported by Times of India, Political parties come under RTI Act: Central Information Commission - The Times of India

 

Political parties come under RTI Act: Central Information Commission

PTI | Jun 3, 2013, 05.59 PM IST

 

NEW DELHI: Setting a new bench mark in transparency in politics, the Central Information Commission on Monday held political parties are answerable under the Right to Information Act.

 

A full bench of the commission comprising chief information commissioner Satyananda Mishra and information commissioner M L Sharma and Annapurna Dixit held six parties — Congress, BJP, CPM, CPI, NCP and BSP — to whom RTI queries were directed, fulfill the criteria of being public authorities under the Right to Information Act.

 

"The presidents, general secretaries of these parties are hereby directed to designate CPIOs and appellate authorities at their headquarters in six weeks. The CPIOs so appointed will respond to the RTI applications extracted in this order in four weeks time," the bench directed.

 

The bench also directed them to comply with the provisions of mandatory proactive disclosures clauses given under the RTI Act and put those details on their websites.

 

The case relates to RTI queries from activist Subhash Agrawal and Anil Bairwal of Assosication of Democratic Reforms who had sought to know the finances of, voluntary financial contributions received by these six parties and the names and addresses of the donors besides other details which were refused as the political parties claimed they do not come under the RTI Act.

 

During the hearing, Bairwal raised three principal points justifying his arguments that parties were under the RTI Act—indirect substantial financing by the central government, performance of public duty and constitutional and legal provisions vesting them with rights and liabilities.

 

"Large tracts of land in prime areas of Delhi have been placed at the disposal of the political parties in question at exceptionally low rates. Besides, huge government accomodations have been placed at the disposal of political parties at hugely cheap rates thereby bestowing financial benefits on them," it said.

 

The bench held the income tax exemptions granted to the parties and free air time given by All India Radio and Doordarshan at the time of elections also substantially contribute to indirect financing from the government.

 

"We have no hesitation in concluding that INC/AICC, BJP, CPM, CPI, NCP and BSP have been substantially financed by the central government and therefore they are held to be public authorities under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act," the bench ordered.

 

On the performing of public duty point raised by Bairwal, the CIC held that political parties "affect the lives of the citizens, directly or indirectly in every conceivable way and are continuously engaged in performing public duty. It is, therefore, important that they become accountable to public."

 

"Political parties are the unique institution of the modern constitutional state. These are essentially political institution and are non-governmental. The uniqueness lies in the fact that inspite of being non-governmental, they come to weild or directly and indirectly influence exercise of governmental power.

 

"It would be odd to argue that transparency is good for all state organs but not so good for political parties, which, in reality, control all the vital organs of the state," the bench held.

 

Citing a Supreme Court order where it held that people of India must know the source of expenditure incurred by political parties during elections, the CIC said these judicial pronouncements unmistakably command progressively higher level of transparency in the functioning of political parties in general and their funding altogether.

 

"In view of the nature of public functions performed by political parties...we conclude that political parties in question are public authorities under section 2(h) of the RTI Act," the bench held.

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Reported by Zeenews.india.com on June 04, 2013

RTI objectives can`t be allowed to run riot: Khurshid

 

New Delhi: As the Central Information Commission (CIC) on Monday held that political parties are answerable under the Right to Information Act, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said it is important to "keep practical control of RTI objectives as they can't be allowed to run riot".

 

Answering a query on the CIC's ruling on the sidelines of an event on Monday evening, Khurshid said there is a "logic of the RTI, which is periodically reflected in its orders. That logic of the RTI act would be gradually tested at all levels including at levels of the courts".

 

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"But it is important to keep practical control of RTI objectives because they can't be allowed to run riot as the purpose is that people who hold public offices must be accountable to the world and to ordinary citizens."

 

"There are other areas one can go and seek information, but for that one has to go through a procedure. It is an evolving process -- a balance between public interest of one kind and of another kind must be maintained," Khurshid said.

 

A full bench of the CIC comprising Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra and Information Commissioner ML Sharma and Annapurna Dixit held six parties - Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India-Marxist, Communist Party of India, Nationalist Congress Party and Bahujan Samaj Party - to whom RTI queries were directed, fulfil the criteria of being public authorities under the RTI Act.

 

"The presidents, general secretaries of these parties are hereby directed to designate CPIOs and appellate authorities at their headquarters in six weeks. The CPIOs so appointed will respond to the RTI applications extracted in this order in four weeks time," the bench directed.

 

The case relates to RTI queries from activist Subhash Agrawal and Anil Bairwal of Association of Democratic Reforms who had sought to know the finances of, voluntary financial contributions received by the six parties and the names and addresses of the donors besides other details which were refused as the political parties claimed they do not come under the RTI Act.

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Reported by Indianexpress.com on Jun 04, 2013

Congress rejects CIC order on bringing political parties under RTI - Indian Express

 

Congress today rejected the CIC order on bringing political parties under RTI ambit, contending that such "adventurist" approach would harm democratic institutions.

 

"It is not acceptable. We totally disagree with it. Such adventurist approach will create a lot of harm and damage to democratic institutions," AICC General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters here.

 

The Central Information Commission (CIC) yesterday held that the parties are public authorities and answerable to citizens under RTI Act. The CIC, a quasi-judicial body, has said that six national parties Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI-M, CPI and BSP have been substantially funded indirectly by the central government and they have the character of public authority under the RTI Act as they perform public functions.

 

After the order of the full bench of CIC, the parties will be answerable to the citizens regarding their source of funding, how they spend money and choice of candidates for elections, among other issues.

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Reported by Newindianexpress.com on 04th June 2013

Cannot accept CIC order on political parties: CPI(M) - The New Indian Express

 

The CPI(M) today slammed the CIC ruling on bringing political parties under the RTI ambit as a serious infringement on inner-party functioning and said it cannot accept the order.

 

In a statement, the CPI(M) Politburo contended that a political party was a voluntary association of citizens who believe in the ideology, programme and the leadership, and it was accountable only to its membership.

 

It also asked the government to discuss the "serious implications" of the CIC order with all political parties so that suitable steps can be taken to preserve the integrity and the role of political parties in a democratic political system.

 

"To apply the Right to Information Act and demand access to the internal deliberations of the party whether it be on policy matters, organisational decisions or selection of candidates will constitute a serious infringement on the inner-party functioning, confidentiality of discussions and undermine the political party system itself," it said.

 

The CPI(M) said opponents of a political party can utilise the RTI as an instrument to destabilise a party.

 

"The CPI(M) cannot accept the order of the Central Information Commission that political parties are to be treated as "public authorities" and brought under the purview of the Right to Information Act. This decision is based on a fundamental misconception about the role of political parties in a parliamentary democracy," the statement said.

 

On concerns of the CIC on transparency of the funding and finances of political parties, the CPI(M) said under the law the political parties have to submit their accounts to the Income Tax Department and the Election Commission.

 

"Already under the RTI, the statement of accounts and the finances of the parties are accessible to anyone from the Election Commission. Any more details of the financing of the Party can be sought for and has to be given," it said.

Maintaining that it has always favoured making financial statements and accounts of a party public, the Politburo said: "But this does not mean that a political party has to be treated as a public authority."

 

"This will interfere with and hamper the functioning of a political party," it said.

 

The Central Information Commission (CIC) yesterday held that the parties are public authorities and answerable to citizens under RTI Act.

 

The CIC, a quasi-judicial body, has said that six national parties Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI-M, CPI and BSP have been substantially funded indirectly by the central government and they have the character of public authority under the RTI Act as they perform public functions.

 

After the order of the full bench of CIC, the parties will be answerable to the citizens regarding their source of funding, how they spend money and choice of candidates for elections, among other issues.

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As reported in thehindu.com on 04 June 2013:

CIC order will cleanse politics, says BJP | The Hindu

 

CIC order will cleanse politics, says BJP

 

BJP leader P.S. Sreedharan Pillai said on Monday that the order of the Central Information Commission, holding that political parties come under the ambit of Right to Information Act, would further cleanse politics.

 

Welcoming the decision, the BJP leader said that openness and better interaction would help political parties that faced decay. “The order will promote higher transparency and efficiency and check degeneration of political parties.” Mr. Pillai, who is a practicing lawyer, told The Hindu that the order expanded the scope of Act and it would benefit the polity. RTI activist D. B. Binu said that it was a path-breaking order. However, it did not go into the grey area of information on political strategy.

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Reported by Thehindu.com on June 4, 2013

Govt. studying CIC order on political parties | The Hindu

 

The Centre is examining the order of the Central Information Commission to bring political parties under the jurisdiction of RTI Act following which it will decide on the future course of action.

 

“We are studying the CIC’s order. The future course of action will be taken after we have studied it,” said an official of Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which acts as a nodal department for implementation of the RTI Act.

 

The official said the government will also take into account views or concerns raised by political parties after the order.

 

“We have heard views of political parties. We will certainly take their versions into the account before deciding on it,” the official said.

In a landmark ruling, the CIC on Monday held that political parties are public authorities and answerable to citizens under RTI Act.

 

The Commission had said six national parties - Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI-M, CPI and BSP - have been substantially funded indirectly by the central government and they have the character of public authority under the RTI Act as they perform public functions.

 

Minister of State for Personnel V. Narayanasamy, under whose jurisdiction implementation of RTI Act lies, said that he will study the order before commenting on it.

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Ramdev welcomes CIC order on political parties

 

Reported by Ptinews.com on 04 June 2013

fullstory

 

New Delhi, Jun 4 (PTI) Welcoming the CIC order, Yoga guru Ramdev today said political parties must come under the purview of RTI as they accept public money.

 

Asked about the Chief Information Commissioner's ruling that political parties come under the Right to Information Act which has been opposed by many parties, he said "if they are accepting public money then why shouldn't they be in RTI's ambit. Political parties must come under the purview of RTI.

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Reported by Timesofindia.indiatimes.com on Jun 4, 2013

Civil society slams political parties for resisting RTI - The Times of India

 

NEW DELHI: Civil society members and RTI activists sharply criticized political parties for their reluctance to accept the Central Information Commission (CIC) order bringing them under the RTI act. In a reflection of their cautious stance, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR was the principle applicant who sought information on donors to political parties) filed a caveat on Tuesday with the court to prevent any party from seeking an ex-parte stay on the CIC order.

 

MKSS' Aruna Roy supported the decision saying that financial transparency was necessary. She added, We have always demanded that NGOs, trade unions, political parties, religious bodies and cooperative societies who are using public funds should be brought under the RTI act.''

 

Political parties opposing the decision came in for sharp criticism from Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) Prof Jagdeep Chhokar who said, If RTI is applicable to the government then those who form the government must also be included. Political parties are not above the law.''

 

RTI activist S C Agrawal said, This was a landmark judgment that would increase transparency and accountability in the political system. The CIC order will also have implications on cases like DGCA and BCCI that have opposed being brought under the RTI act.''

 

National Commission for Minorities (NCM) chairperson and former Chief Information Commission Wajahat Habibullah described it as a constructive order.'' Reacting to the parties' opposition Habibullah said, Initial reaction is bound to be negative...the Supreme Court, army...all opposed it when they were first brought within the ambit of the act. But when they understand the merits of the order they will accept it.

 

There are no grounds for apprehension since a lot of the information that is sought is already available through the government.''

 

National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI)'s Nikhil Dey said that financial transparency should be put up for public scrutiny. The order is important as the principle of 'substantially funded' interpreted by the CIC will have an impact on hospitals, schools and other public institutions that should be open to RTI as well.''

 

Former Information Commission in the CIC Shailesh Gandhi said that unless a political party was based on illegal activities or black money there was no cause for concern. Why are political parties opposed to transparency and RTI? In fact citizens must vote for only those parties that are transparent,'' he said.

 

Pointing to the opaqueness among political parties, ADR pointed out how basic information like memorandum of association of parties, election manifesto, monthly remuneration of the party office-bearers was not available.

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Reported by Dnaindia.com on Jun 4, 2013

CIC ruling on political parties most significant: former commissioner Wajahat Habibullah - India - DNA

 

CIC now needs to respond to RTI queries on their assets, funding and members, Habibullah said on Tuesday.

 

The Central Information Commission (CIC) ruling that political parties are public authorities is "most significant" as they would now need to respond to RTI queries on their assets, funding and members, former commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said Tuesday.

 

"All the information about the political parties is available to the government, but under different departments. Now, the political parties would be themselves responsible for giving the information to the public," Habibullah said, a day after the CIC ruled that political parties come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.

 

"The fact that political parties have been held to be public authorities is most significant," Habibullah, who headed the agency from Oct 26, 2005 to Sep 29, 2010, said.

 

He said information about land assets of a party can be found from the urban development ministry and information about its income tax payments from the Income Tax department.

 

"But now political parties are bound by a suo motu query to give all information about them. It is a most comprehensive, all embracing ruling," added Habibullah.

 

The CIC Monday ruled that political parties are public authorities and are answerable under the Right to Information act.

 

A full bench of the CIC comprising Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra and Information Commissioners ML Sharma and Annapurna Dixit held six parties - the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India-Marxist, Communist Party of India, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party - to be public authorities under the RTI Act.

 

"The presidents, general secretaries of these parties are hereby directed to designate Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) and appellate authorities at their headquarters in six weeks. The CPIOs so appointed will respond to the RTI applications extracted in this order in four weeks' time," the bench directed.

 

The case relates to RTI queries from activist Subhash Agrawal and Anil Bairwal of Association of Democratic Reforms. They wanted information on the finances of voluntary financial contributions received by the six parties and the names and addresses of the donors besides other details. This was refused as the political parties claimed they did not come under the RTI Act.

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Reported by Aarti Dhar and B Muralidhar Reddy in Thehindu.com on June 5, 2013

Parties gang up on CIC order | The Hindu

 

Congress leads charge against move, saying it will harm democratic institutions

 

 

Most of the national parties have not taken kindly to the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) that would bring them within the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Congress has said such an “adventurist” approach will harm democratic institutions.

 

The BJP, which initially welcomed the verdict, quickly did a “course correction,” contending that there was no clarity on several issues triggered by the order, especially a possible overlap of the roles of the Election Commission and the RTI body.

 

“It is not acceptable. We totally disagree with it. Such an adventurist approach will create a lot of harm and damage to democratic institutions,” All India Congress Committee general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told journalists here on Tuesday. Questioning the pragmatism of the move, the BJP said the Election Commission should spell out whether parties should declare their assets to the CIC.

 

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) termed the ruling unacceptable.

 

On Monday, the CIC, a quasi-judicial body, held that the parties were public authorities and answerable to citizens under the RTI Act. It said the Congress, BJP, Nationalist Congress Party, CPI(M), CPI and the Bahujan Samaj Party have indirectly been funded substantially by the Central government, and they had the character of a public authority under the RTI Act as they performed public functions.

 

In the wake of the order of the CIC’s full bench, the parties will be answerable to citizens about their source of funding, how they spend money and their choice of candidates for elections, among other issues.

 

“Getting political parties entangled in such unnecessary things will damage the democratic process. We simply cannot accept it,” Mr. Dwivedi said, arguing that the move would encroach upon the right to privacy of political organisations which did not receive any grant from the government and were voluntary organisations.

 

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said, “We are finding that there is confusion about the overlapping role of the CIC and the EC. While the BJP wants political parties to be transparent and accountable, and is already responding to the poll panel’s orders, the EC will have to clarify.”

 

The CPI(M)’s Polit Bureau said it could not accept the order, which was based on a misconception of the role of political parties in a parliamentary democracy.

 

Given the serious implications of the order for the political party system and parliamentary democracy, the matter should be discussed by the government with all parties so that suitable steps could be taken to preserve the integrity and role of parties in a democratic political system, it said.

 

Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav said the order was in “no way justified” as “political parties are not shops.” "We are totally against this move," he said, urging the Centre to thwart it.

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Reported by Akshaya Mukul in Timesofindia.indiatimes.com on Jun 5, 2013

Karat seeks amendment to RTI as relief for parties - The Times of India

 

NEW DELHI: CPM general secretary Prakash Karat has said his party would demand an amendment to the Right to Information Act (RTI) so that political parties are exempted from sharing information like public authorities.

 

 

Speaking to the TOI, Karat ruled out CPM going to courts against the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC), saying political parties should be treated as public authorities as defined in the RTI Act. "We would request the government to amend the RTI Act. There seems to be a consensus among national parties against the CIC ruling," Karat said, adding that CPM would seek views of other political parties before the monsoon session of Parliament. Karat expects amendment would be unanimously passed.

 

In an article in the party weekly People's Democracy, Karat said CIC's decision to extend the purview of the RTI to a political party is misconceived and wrong. "This order stems from a lack of understanding and a basic misconception about the role of political parties in a parliamentary democracy. Political parties are not governmental organisations or State funded entities. There is no Constitutional provision for a political party. A political party is an association of citizens who come together voluntarily to form a party. This can be on the basis that they subscribe to a particular ideology, programme and leadership that the party stands for or espouses," he wrote. Karat said to term these political parties as "public authorities" on the grounds that they are substantially financed directly or indirectly by the government or the State is fundamentally wrong. "It blurs and mixes up the role and functions of the political parties with that of government and government-sponsored organizations," he said.

 

Karat pointed out after CIC's new order any one can ask for access to internal deliberations of a political party. They can ask for relevant material and papers which went into the decision making and the views of various office-bearers of the party concerned. "If such a procedure is adopted, it will harm the very mode of inner-party functioning. Within a party, discussions are held and it is on the basis of confidentiality that certain decisions are taken. To demand that such deliberations be made available will be a serious infringement on the nature of inner-party discussions," he said, pointing out that under the RTI, a BJP member can demand information about the internal matters of the CPM and vice-versa.

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Left party now supports sharing info through RTI

 

Reported by Jaideep Deogharia in Timesofindia.indiatimes.com on Jun 6, 2013

Left party now supports sharing info through RTI - The Times of India

 

RANCHI: The CPI-ML that worked as an underground party for nearly two decades has now supported the idea of sharing every piece of information with people after the central information commissioner (CIC) decided to bring political parties under the ambit of the Right to Information Act. but the main stream political parties are sceptical about the revolutionary step. that once preferred keeping every activity under cover has gone one step ahead in Jharkhand declaring funds, finances and even details of internal elections and wants others to follow suit if they are in public life.

 

CPI-ML central committee member and Bagodar MLA Vinod Singh said the party in its ninth congress held recently in Jharkhand went for secret ballot to elect new central committee and politburo members. "We have shared with our members the details of every penny collected and spent in organizing the event and have no hesitation sharing them with people in general," he added.

 

Contrary to the CPI-ML views, most of the mainstream parties have expressed doubts about bringing the political parties under the RTI ambit. Though the BJP at central level has theoretically supported the CIC move, party leaders in state want the scope and objectives to be declared unambiguously. Spokesperson for the BJP Prem Mittal said they were supporters of transparency but at the same time would like CIC to define the scope and extent of applicability of RTI. "Whether a political party be compelled to disclose ticket distribution ahead of elections is going to strengthen democracy or weaken, it is a matter to be considered seriously," he said.

 

The Congress, too, has expressed reservations against imposition of RTI over political parties. State president Sukhdeo Bhagat believes that transparency is required at the level of political parties but they will follow the instructions of central leadership over the matter. State spokesperson Radha Krishna Kishore, however, raised questions over legality and impracticality of the CIC order. "Section 2 of the RTI Act defines the criteria under which any establishment or organization could be brought under the Act's purview and there is no denial of the fact that none of the political parties whether national or regional are never funded by the state," he said. Kishore also said the tool could be misused for seeking internal information about political strategies of respective parties.

 

Expressing concern over the CIC move, the CPM said they, too, had supported transparency but not at the cost of subverting internal democracy of the party because an Act that could be misused unless defined properly.

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Banerjee backs bringing national parties under RTI Act

 

Reported by Newstrackindia.com on 05 June 2013

Banerjee backs bringing national parties under RTI Act

 

Kolkata, June 5 (IANS) Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee Wednesday gave the thumbs up to the Central Information Commissioner's order bringing national political parties under the Right to Information Act.

 

Banerjee said she supported the order as the public had the right to know how the parties functioned and received funds

 

"There should be transparency at some point in the functioning of political parties. The people have the right to be informed on the activities and functioning of political parties, and their funding," Banerjee told mediapersons here, two days after the CIC order triggered a debate with most political parties criticising it.

 

"I find the move laudable. Moreover, there are political parties who have property worth crores of rupees. The political parties needed to be brought under the RTI fold as they are involved with the lives of the masses at large."

 

She also pledged that once the Trinamool becomes a national party, it would submit all information under the RTI Act. "This we will do irrespective of whether we are asked to do so or not.

 

The CIC, on two applications filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms and Right to Information (RTI) activist Subhash Chand Agrawal, ruled Monday that political parties were public authorities as they performed public functions and received government funding.

 

The CIC said that six national parties - the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Communist Party of India and the Bahujan Samaj Party - had been substantially funded, even if indirectly, by the central government.

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As reported at dnaindia.com on 05 June 2013

 

To preempt political resistance, ADR files caveat in high court.

 

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) filed a caveat in the Delhi High Court on Tuesday asking to be heard before any political party gets a stay against the Central Information Commission’s Monday order.

 

In a landmark decision on Monday, the CIC brought six political parties — Congress, BJP, CPI-M, CPI, BSP and the NCP — under the ambit of the RTI Act, saying the parties are substantially financed by the central government among other things. The order evoked a mixed response from political parties, with most of them criticising it.

 

Before any party could approach the courts to seek a stay on the order, the ADR, one of the applicants in the case, approached the Delhi High Court on Tuesday. “We have filed the caveat so that no party can get a stay on the CIC order without our knowledge,” said Anil Bairwal, ADR’s national coordinator. The other applicant in the case, SC Agrawal, said that political parties should welcome the decision as it would boost transparency and accountability and improve their public image.

 

The BJP was the only one of the six political parties to welcome the order while the others, led by the Congress, slammed it. “We totally disagree with it. Such an adventurist approach will damage our democratic institutions,” Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said.

 

Stating that it cannot accept the CIC order, the CPI (M) said the matter should be discussed by the government with all political parties so that suitable steps can be taken to preserve the integrity and the role of political parties in a democratic political system.

 

The Janata Dal (U), which was not mentioned in the order, expressed “astonishment and shock” at the order. “We are totally against the move and the central government should come forward to scuttle it,” said its president, Sharad Yadav.

 

The sole acceptance came from the BJP quarters with spokesperson Capt Abhimanyu Singh saying, “We welcome transparency.”

 

 

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Transparency laws in only two other countries cover parties

 

 

Reported by Shyamlal Yadav in indianexpress.com on June 07, 2013

Transparency laws in only two other countries cover parties - Indian Express

 

Bringing political parties under the transparency law is not a global precedent but still rare, with India becoming only the third of 89 countries in this bracket while a fourth is preparing to join them.

 

Until the Central Information Commission ruled this week that the Right to Information Act covers India's parties too, Poland and Nepal were the only two countries where the equivalent laws extend to parties. Rwanda is set to follow, with fresh rules drafted and placed before the cabinet for approval. "Political parties are included under the ministerial orders (rules) which are waiting for approval of the local government," says Venkatesh Naik, one of the advisers for Rwanda's FoI (freedom of information) law.

 

The RTI Act of Nepal, in effect since 2007, includes political parties and all NGOs as well as public authorities under the law. So does Poland's Law on Access to Public Information, introduced in January 2002. Unlike in India, where the time limit for providing information is 30 days, in Poland it is 14 days.

 

The laws in most countries treat political parties as private organisations and therefore exempt from the transparency law. Many European countries passed their FoI laws much earlier than countries elsewhere; all but Poland keep political parties out of their ambit. These include Sweden, where the world's oldest FoI law was passed in 1766.

 

Now activists in Europe are looking at India as an example. "When I heard the news from India I found it inspiring," says Brigitte Alfter, a Belgian journalist networking with others in European countries on FoI. "Parties are powerful entities, their economy is assumed to play an important role in political life, and citizens should be aware of that. We will look to India to learn from this recent development."

 

"The Indian information commission's decision is great," says Helena Bengtsson, database editor (news and current affairs) at Sveriges Television in Sweden.

 

In the US, the FoI law excludes parties but they are required to furnish information before the election commission. Says Jennifer LaFleur, director for computer-assisted reporting with the media website Pro Publica, "Our federal FoI law covers the administrative branch of the federal government. It does not cover political parties. Parties that meet certain criteria must file information with the Federal Election Commission, which is subject to FoI Act."

 

In South Africa, activists sought to bring political parties under the transparency law's ambit but their appeal was turned down in court. FoI activists and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa appealed in 2005 before the South Africa High Court, which ruled, "On my interpretation... the respondents (political parties) are not obliged to disclose such records."

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SP in favour of parties coming under RTI

 

Reported by Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on June 07, 2013

SP in favour of parties coming under RTI - The Times of India

 

LUCKNOW: Breaking ranks with the other parties, the Samajwadi Party on Thursday said it favoured a mechanism of checks and balances for transparency in the functioning of the political parties. The SP was referring to the June 3, 2013, ruling of the chief information commissioner (CIC) that says political parties come under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Almost all national parties have opposed the CIC ruling.

 

National president of SP lawyers' wing Gaurav Bhatia told TOI that the party was in favour of some checks and balances to ensure transparency in the present working of political parties. "We can always debate on the nature and extent of these checks and balances, but we are unwilling to straightway dismiss the CIC order," Bhatia said.

 

"If you go through the CIC order, it does not apply to SP as it is specifically for the national political parties namely the Congress, BJP, CPI and BSP. We are a regional party. But we are of the view that people and institutions which claim to work for the people must ensure that no one has any question about their functioning," Bhatia said. The general perception is that many political outfits make money in power and push it in the party corpus in the form of voluntary donations less than Rs 20,000 per head. Hence, a system is required to ensure that such donations are also accounted for, he added.

 

The most contentious point of debate is the voluntary donations that parties receive. These are divided into two segments: one, donations up to Rs 20,000 and the other is above Rs 20,000. While those donating above Rs 20,000 are required to provide their PAN numbers along with income tax details, for money below Rs 20,000, neither the party nor the donor is required to certify anything.

 

Interestingly, almost all political parties in their books of accounts show 95% income through donations up to Rs 20,000 only. As per the income tax returns of the Samajwadi Party for 2011-12, the party accrued an income of Rs 11,48,11,825.58, but not a single penny was taxable. The party has received voluntary donations from nine parties where the amount was above Rs 20000. In all, Rs 1.02 crore was pooled in by a single identity from Mumbai but in seven installments.

 

The Bahujan Samaj Party, too, is not behind. The documents of BSP for the assessment year 2011-12 show that the party received Rs 222, 940, 000 as membership fee from new members and another Rs 713, 800, 000 as voluntary donations. Interestingly, not a single donation from that amount was above Rs 20,000. Allegations are that the situation is worse in terms of political giants like the Congress, BJP and CPI where the ration of the two types of donations is up to 2:98, where 2 signifies the fraction of donations that were above Rs 20,000.

 

Most of the national parties, however, claim that their objection over parties coming under the RTI is primarily because they are already filing details of the election expenditure and annual I-T returns with Elections Commission and the income tax department respectively. Hence, there was no reason why a new mechanism be introduced. About keeping records of donations below Rs 20,000, the top political outfits believe that keeping records of every donation below Rs 20,000 will be a humongous task and a chunk of the manpower will remain engaged in keeping these records.

 

Disposing of a complaint that certain political parties have refused to entertain applications seeking information about the funding under the RTI Act, a bench headed by CIC Styanand Misra along with information commissioners, Annapurna Dixit and ML Sharma, has ruled that political parties perform public functions and thereby have the character of public authority as per section 2 (h) of the RTI Act.

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RTI should cover regional parties: Outfit

 

Reported by timesofindia.indiatimes.com on June 07, 2013

RTI should cover regional parties: Outfit - The Times of India

 

BHUBANESWAR: The state unit of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Thursday demanded that regional political parties in Odisha must also be brought under the purview of State Information Commission (SIC).

 

Reacting to the recent decision of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to bring national political parties under the RTI Act's ambit, party's state convener Nishikanta Mohapatra said, "We appeal to the SIC to take suo motu cognizance of the decision and declare the regional political parties in Odisha as public authorities."

 

"The SIC should also order the political parties to declare their sources of funding and expenditure," he demanded.

 

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As reported by KPM Basheer in thehindu.com on 05 Jun 2013:

Placing parties under RTI lens, a game-changer: Shailesh Gandhi | Business Line

 

Placing parties under RTI lens, a game-changer: Shailesh Gandhi

 

The Central Information Commission’s decision bringing the six major national political parties under the ambit of the RTI Act is going to be game-changer in India’s political system, according to Shailesh Gandhi, former member of the CIC.

 

Gandhi, the first RTI activist to be appointed in the Central Information Commission, told Business Line that exposing the political parties to public probity will help reduce the massive corruption and financial irregularities by the political class.

 

“If the parties do not challenge the order in the court, this landmark decision will bring in a high level of financial transparency and openness in the functioning of our parties,” Gandhi said. “However, if the parties go the court, the whole thing will get stuck for years to come.” He noted that the CIC’s order bringing the office of the Supreme Court registry under the RTI Act was still pending in the court. Gandhi urged the civil society and the media to make sure that the political parties do not scuttle the CIC order.

 

Bolt from the blue

 

For the six major national political parties, which are gearing up for next year’s parliamentary elections, the June 3 decision by the CIC that the Right to Information Act 2005 applies to them too was unexpected.

 

“The presidents (and) general secretaries of these political parties are hereby directed to designate central public information officers and appellate authorities at their headquarters in six weeks’ time,” Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra and Information Commissioners Annapurna Dixit and M.L. Sharma said in their landmark decision.

 

The six parties – Congress, BJP, CPI, CPI(M), NCP and BSP –have been have been declared as “public authorities” under Section 2 (h) (ii) of the Act and asked to respond to the questions raised by two RTI activists regarding their work and sources of funds within four weeks.

 

“…We are of the opinion that bringing the political parties in the ambit of RTI Act is likely to usher an era of transparency in their functioning. Besides, it would result in strengthening of democracy and democratic institutions in the country,” the commissioners observed in their 53-page order.

 

NOT ENTHUSIASTIC

 

While the decision has been hailed across the country as a victory for Indian democracy, RTI activists are not very enthusiastic as they are pretty certain that the parties will defeat it by challenging it in the courts. D.B. Binu, general secretary of Kerala RTI Federation, feels that the order would go the way of the CIC declaration that the Supreme Court registry was a public authority. Though the Delhi High Court had upheld the order, it was later left to the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court to take a final decision.

 

Binu, however, recalled that the CIC had brought the cooperative societies and private schools under the RTI Act and they remain as public authorities.

 

Now that the elections are round the corner, the political parties will fight ferociously the decision to expose them to public probing. The left parties have already expressed their disapproval of the decision.

 

The move will make the political class more accountable. But, with elections coming, parties will attempt to block it in court, says the former information commissioner

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