Deadline over, political parties choose not to come under RTI

The deadline for political parties to appoint public information officers and appellate authorities to provide information under the transparency act ends on Monday, but none of the six parties have appointed staff to implement the RTI act.

Danish July 15, 2013 16:07:29 IST
Deadline over, political parties choose not to come under RTI

Political parties have chosen to miss the six week deadline set by the central information commission (CIC) to implement steps that would bring them under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

In June, the CIC declared the six national political parties to be public authorities and gave them six weeks to appoint public information officers and appellate authorities to provide information under the transparency act.

The deadline ends on Monday, but none of the six parties have appointed staff to implement the RTI act.

Deadline over political parties choose not to come under RTI

Representational image

When asked if non-compliance with the CIC order amounted to demeaning a government institution, Ajay Maken, Congress spokesperson and general secretary told reports at a briefing in New Delhi, "We have full faith in the institutions under the RTI. We do not want to demean any institution under the RTI Act. We want to strengthen the institutions of RTI even more because it is the Congress party and the UPA government that brought the RTI Act.”

Bharatiya Janata Party spokerperson, Nirmala Sitharaman told Firstpost that while her party was in favour of promoting transparency in finances of political parties, the CIC order, in particular, demands scrutiny. “It has to be discussed with all stakeholders and understood in the larger context,” she said.

An all party meeting to discuss the issue is expected to take place soon.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) member Nilotpal Basu said, “We are waiting for the government to act. We will give our views if an all party meeting is convened.”

The CIC based its order on the argument that political parties were substantially funded by the government in multiple ways, including receiving land at concessional rates, as well as getting free air time on television and radio. Political parties maintained that these provisions cannot be categorised as 'substantial' funding by the government.

Communist Party of India general secretary D Raja said that the information commission crossed its mandate in this ruling as political parties already submit their income tax returns; criminal and educational backgrounds of their candidates with government bodies. “Do you want to internal matter of the party, like, why one person was chosen over another?” wondered.

Activists said political parties had enough time to decide on the matter and a consensus should have reached by now. “If they agree with the CIC order, they should have appointed the staff to address the RTI application. If they disagree with it, they should have moved court. There is no other way out. This is serious issue of non-compliance,” said Anjali Bhardwaj, member, national campaign for people’s right to information.

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