Nation
Congress brags about bringing in the RTI Act but was the only party to skip the CIC hearing

In a crucial second CIC hearing on 1st November regarding whether political parties should come under RTI, all recognised political parties argued against it, while the Congress did not even send its representative for the hearing

Recently Moneylife had carried the story of how, at the Central Information Commission (CIC) hearing on 26th September, only NCP and CPI sent their representatives to give their opinion on whether “political parties should be declared as public authorities and brought under the purview of RTI.” (Indian political parties fear RTI consequences; skip CIC hearing )

 

The full bench of the CIC was forced to keep the matter pending to give the general secretaries of other major political parties, one more chance. Thus, the next hearing took place on 1st November. This was a sequel to complaints made by RTI applicants Anil Bairwal and Subhash Chandra Agarwal who appealed to the CIC that they were not supplied information or were given only part information by all the five major political parties. Congress and CPI (M) had flatly refused information stating that they do not come under the purview of the RTI Act.

 

It may be recalled that Bairwal and Agarwal had sought the following information from the five major political parties:

  • Details of 10 maximum voluntary contributions received by the party from fiscal 2004-05 to fiscal 2009-10
  • Details pertaining to voluntary contributors along with their addresses who have made single contribution of more than Rs1 lakh to the party from fiscal 2004-05 to fiscal 2009-10
     

The Congress high command and its senior political leaders who do not miss any opportunity to tom-tom about having brought in the RTI Act was the only political party which did not send its representative at the crucial CIC hearing on 1st November. The CIC had asked the general secretaries of the All India Congress Committee, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Bahujan Samaj Party and Public Information Officer of the Election Commission of India to be present.

 

The full bench, comprising Chief Information Commissioner Satyanand Mishra and Commissioners ML Sharma and Annapurna Dikshit, of the Central Information Commission (CIC) conducted the second hearing. Earlier, CPI was the only political party which had replied that: “a) Yes. We are Public Authority under Section 2 (h)(d)(ii) ‘non-government organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government’; and b) we have our internal appellate authority ‘Central Control Commission’.” The CPI also promptly provided a list of their largest donors, their addresses and the mode of payment of these donations.
 

Predictably but disgustingly, at the November CIC hearing, there was vehement opposition from all political parties to declare themselves as “Public Authorities” under the RTI Act, 2005. According to a press release issued by Anil Bairwal of the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), Sharad Pawar’s NCP stated to the CIC that coming under RTI would be dangerous for them. Its representative said that the information regarding the donors to the political parties might be used to threaten the donors and these donors would also be intimidated by the rival political parties.NCP also feared that huge machinery involving lots of manpower would be needed to cater to the responses of RTI applications, if political parties are made public authorities. Its representative also explained that its funding from government is just a minute percentage of the overall income.
 

Mayawati’s BSP deposed that no amount of funding—direct or indirect—is provided to the party from the government. The party’s representative argued that facilities such as income tax exemptions, plots of land, properties and buildings at concessional rents, free air time and other facilities don’t constitute funding. Its representative also argued that there should be a government notification for political parties to come under RTI.

BJP and CPI (M) together chorused that the intent of legislature while making the RTI Act was never to bring political parties under the jurisdiction of the Act.
 

The CIC’s November hearing has reserved the judgment, thus dragging the crucial issue of political parties dodging transparency.
 

Anil Bairwal has submitted incisive and in-depth arguments to the CIC by quoting several high court and Supreme Court judgments as to why political parties are ‘Public Authorities’. Bairwal also states that, “A political party controls its nation by getting its candidates elected to the public offices. Political parties visibly declare that they work for the upliftment of the public. Political parties in their hunt for power spend more than Rs1,000 crore during elections. Nobody accounts for the bulk of the money so spent and there is no accountability anywhere. There are no proper accounts and no audit at all. In a democracy where rule of law prevails, this type of naked display of black money, by violating the mandatory provisions of law, cannot be permitted.”
 

For other news and articles on RTI, click here.
 

Bairwal states that if political parties come under RTI, “Citizens can check commonplace evils like giving tickets to criminals, tickets based on the sole criteria of money, disclosure of the criteria of selection of candidates and it would also reveal corruption. If the internal functioning of political parties is made public, then they would become more accountable.”
 

Bairwal points out the following reasons why political parties are ‘Public Authorities’ and should therefore come under the RTI Act:

  • State funding on free airtime for political parties during elections on state-owned television, Doordarshan, and radio, Akashwani as per order no. 437/TVs/2009/M&TS of Election Commission of India
  • State funding on electoral rolls during elections: Under the provisions of rules 11 and 12 of the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960, two copies of the electoral roll, one printed copy and another in a CD is supplied to recognised political parties, free of cost, after draft and final publications. RTI queries reveal that approximately Rs56,525 is spent per candidate hence it is “substantial funding.”
  • Tax payable exempted for political parties: As per section 13A of the Income Tax Act large amount of money is exempted under tax exemption on the income of political parties. Income Tax returns filed by political parties were analysed with expert help and on the basis of which Bairwal says that they have been able to calculate tax payable, which is exempted for the national parties. For example, between financial years of 2006 and 2009, tax exemptions for Congress and BJP are to the tune of Rs300 crore and Rs141 crore, respectively
  • State funding per year on rent of government/public offices for political parties: Political parties are also provided facilities for residential and official use by the Directorate of Estates. They are charged a token amount of money as rent or dues for these properties. Various facilities have been provided to political parties’ office bearers for official and residential purposes in prime areas of Lutyen’s Delhi. Information on these facilities was accessed under RTI from the Directorate of Estates. There are many more such residential and official facilities given to political parties in various parts of the country.

 

To conclude, in one of the judgments, the Supreme Court had stated: “In a government of responsibility, where all agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way, by their public functionaries. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing…”

 

Read other articles by the same writer, here.

 

(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”. She can be reached at [email protected].)

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COMMENTS

Ashok Das

4 years ago

Is the ruling on this issue public yet?

Dayananda Kamath k

4 years ago

it is the congress way of ruling the country. create a problem aloow it to aggrevate and then bring some legislation with ulterior motive. and take credit when it is used by somebody to improve the situation which they have not thought off in a democracy right to food right to information, right to education should be available automatically. but due to their misrule of the country for almost 60 years they were forced to pass these laws. passing of these laws is the proof of their misrule. and it should be noted that these laws are being passed only after other parties came to power. may be to put them in trouble and recapture the power. and for that matter it was becasue of sustained eforts of anna hajare arvind kejrioval these laws are being brought. and their claim for supporting kargil war. if many of the statmnts of sonia gandhi during that period were to be scaned you will come to know how they supported. and compare it with bjp support during bangladesh war. in any other country the statments during kargil war by sonia gandhi are sufficient to put her behind bar.

REPLY

Ashok Das

In Reply to Dayananda Kamath k 4 years ago

Sir,

Our intention is to have a good RTI for citizens and public servants.We are willing to give credit to anyone who helps in this effort. Also we do not wish to have people who prevent use of RTI and also those who misuse RTI.

Thank you

G N GHOSH

4 years ago

It is very funny matter in INDIAN POLITICS that when some wrong things exposes about any particular party all others jumped like a hungry lion to defeat that party. But ironically when the matter is question of own integrity, transparency all the parties stand hand holding and trying to brush the menace.
It is clear from their stand on RTI ACT jurisdiction, that Indian political parties are working just like SWISS BANK, THEY will accept the deposit (DONATION)but will not reveal the name of depositor (DONOR). Is it not a question of honesty of the political parties in INDIA !!!!!!!!!! Are they corrupt ?????

MOHAN

4 years ago

The National Front Government headed by V.P. SINGH actually hashed out the RTI ACT in the year 1990. But due to lack of political support it did not become a reality.

Shashikant Koppikar

4 years ago

A system is only as good as the people forming that system. The critics of our political system can hardly be blamed for debunking the entire system. Unless there is a total overhaul of the system with deep surgery of the gangrenous politicians, India cannot grow to its full potential.

REPLY

uttam

In Reply to Shashikant Koppikar 4 years ago

Who will do the overhaul/surgery?The nation is full of Social engineering Doctors.
Judiciary/President/Governor all these posts seems to be redundant, as if they dont exist. When matters come to the state of the nation, they should intervene and not just wait and watch or stay ignorant.

uttam

4 years ago

I am seeing for sometime that SC is coming with the same "Golden Words" each time.

Can Supreme Court Act strongly on it rather preaching things fumblingly and giving sufficient chances to the offenders to hood-wink the public/law/order/constitution/nation.
Do we need to remind that Judiciary is an independent body?
I think CAG should takeover Judiciary as well.

Ashok Das

4 years ago

Respected Vinita Deshmukh,

Other than its ruling, will the CIC bring out a transcript of the hearing to know exactly what each party said? Also is it possible to get a copy of the written submissions of each side in this particular matter? It would be nice to have these for a detailed study.

Thank you
Ashok

REPLY

Vinita Deshmukh

In Reply to Ashok Das 4 years ago

Yes I am trying to get a copy of the written order. There is no audio transcript available as far as i know.

National Cancer Awareness Day: Look out for the warning signs

At first, cancer may have no signs and signals, and therefore is usually undetected. But there are subtle signals that should not be ignored. Early detection and treatment dramatically improves your chances of survival and return to good health

 
Today is Marie Curie’s birth anniversary and National Cancer Awareness Day. As cancer surgeons, my colleagues and I are direct witnesses to the fact that India is struck by a disaster of tsunami or earthquake proportions every single day. Over 3,000 persons—mostly middle age—die every day due to a single identifiable cause that is entirely avoidable, namely tobacco. And it is strange that nobody in the government seemed to even care until mid-2012 (when 15 states with about 60% of India’s population banned gutka under the Food Safety Regulations 2011). 
 
Tobacco users are hugely prone to getting cancer, respiratory illness, heart attack, stroke, etc. Ten lakh smokers and tobacco-chewers die from these illnesses every year in India—50 times more than non-tobacco users. About one-third of India’s population is hooked to tobacco. Of India’s 42 crore tobacco addicts, only about 28 crore are adults. About 14 crore persons are aged below 18 years, and they typically pick up the tobacco habit in the 6th or 7th standard. 
 
Besides tobacco addicts, six other high risk-groups are:
•         Women post menopause
•         Women on birth-control pills or hormone therapy
•         People working in smoky, stress-filled or otherwise toxic environments e.g. welders, traffic policemen, metal workshop & furnace personnel
•         Exposed to second-hand smoke—family members and colleagues of smokers 
•         Heavy drinkers
•         Those who suffer from disturbed sleep patterns and chronic fatigue e.g. those who frequently work night-shifts, students who habitually work overnight, etc.
 
At first, cancer may have no signs and signals, and therefore is usually undetected. But there are subtle signals that it is in your interest to notice and act upon. Early detection and treatment dramatically improves your chances of survival and return to good health.
 
As a malignant cancerous tumour grows, it may press on nerves, penetrates blood vessels and interfere with the functioning of one or more organs. Thus it causes bleeding, pain and impairment in body functions that cannot be explained by normal causes. 
 
Watch out for these 13 early signs of cancer:
 
1. Sore or lesion that does not heal, even after medication
2. Change in the look and feel of an existing wart, mole, or sore in the mouth
3. Bleeding or watery discharge from any part of the body that is abnormal
4. Thickening or lump in parts like the testicles, breast, armpits or elsewhere
5. Acidity, indigestion, difficulty in swallowing
6. Chronic fatigue, nausea, or vomiting
7. Sudden changes in bowel or bladder habits
8. Nagging cough or hoarseness in the throat
9. Persistent headaches
10. Loss of appetite, sudden weight loss for no reason
11. Pain in bones or any other areas of the body
12. Low-grade fever, either constant or intermittent
13. Poor immune system, repeated infections
 
If you develop any such symptoms that are not related to another medical cause, and these persist for more than two weeks, schedule a medical examination. Remember, early diagnosis and treatment is your best bet against cancer.
 
These early warning signs apply to all human beings—even those who have a very healthy lifestyle. However, you should definitely be more watchful if you are in one or more of the above-mentioned high-risk groups.
 
To read about how common sense goes a long way in helping tackle the dreaded disease, click here
 

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Amara Raja Batteries net sales increase by 23%; profit up 35%

The south-India based automotive ancillary manufacturer posted decent results on back of increased volumes and sales on higher momentum off-take in automotive sector.

Amara Raja Batteries reported 28% year-on-year (y-o-y) increase in net sales for the quarter ended 30 September 2012. It went from Rs562.72 crore recorded in September 2011 to Rs718.72 recorded for this period. Its operating profit grew by 23% y-o-y to Rs108.61. Net profit was up 35% at Rs70.1 crore. This was a result of strong growth on both volumes and value terms and increased momentum (even if a bit subdued) automotive sector.

 

Click here to read about other companies’ results

 

It’s average y-o-y net sales growth rate was 31% and, likewise, operating profit average growth rate 45% y-o-y. Admittedly, the company has not performed as per expectation even though its net sales never reported a single decline. The valuation of the company is on the lower end, somewhat, with market capitalisation 8.9 times its operating profit while return on equity is a stupendous 33%.

 

According to the company, the automotive battery business reported strong growth both in volume and value despite muted demand in the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) segment of four-wheeler batteries. The growth in volumes of four-wheeler and two-wheeler batteries was primarily due to continuing momentum in all formats of aftermarket. The trading in tubular batteries and home UPS under Amaron and PowerZone private label program has sustained the impetus during the quarter, aided by strong demand.


The industrial battery business has reported a marginal growth in volume enabled by good demand from the telecom sector. It has a preferred vendor status built over the years, notwithstanding higher competitive intensity.

Commenting on the Q2 performance,  Jayadev Galla, managing director, Amara Raja Batteries said, “I am happy to note that our performance is in line with our expectations despite the fact that there has been slowdown in the automotive OEM sector. Escalating conversion and distribution costs, primarily owing to power shortage, steep increase in power tariff and diesel price, are adversely impacting the margins in OEM and telecom businesses. However, we are confident of reporting double digit growth both in topline and bottomline for FY 12-13.”


Commenting on the Q2 performance, K Suresh, chief financial officer, said, “We continue to enjoy debt-free status with free cash of over Rs340 crore as on 30 September 2012. The market capitalization of the company now stands at over Rs3800 crore aided by the company’s performance and liquidity created by the recent sub-division of face value of equity shares from Rs2 per share to Re1 each effective 26 September 2012, which we believe will delight the stakeholders who reposed faith in our long-term story.”

 

We had recommended this stock at when its stock price was Rs157.50 and now it is quoting at Rs257 at time.

 

Click here to know more about Amara Raja Batteries

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