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Congress, BJP, CPI, CPI (M), NCP and BSP yet to appoint PIOs under RTI Act

Association for Democratic Reforms has filed a complaint to the Central Information Commission (CIC) to take action against Congress, BJP, CPI, CPI (M), NCP and BSP

Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), which along with right to information (RTI) activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal has been campaigning for the six national political parties to come under RTI, after having procured sensational documents under RTI Act pointing that these parties are ‘public authorities’. They are now asking the Central Information Commission (CIC) for action against these political parties since they have not abided by CIC’s 3 June 2013 verdict (CIC/SM/C/2011/001386 & 000838 dated 3 June 2013) of directing all these parties to appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs) within six weeks.
 

On 11 December 2013, ADR and Mr Agrawal filed a complaint against six national political parties, Indian National Congress (Congress), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India (Marxist)-CPI(M), Communist Party of India (CPI), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
 

Their press release stated: “Central Information Commission in its full-bench verdict dated 3 June 2013 had held that six national political parties INC, BJP, CPI, CPI(M), NCP and BSP were public authorities under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Commission further directed the six political parties to appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs/CPIOs) within six weeks of the order, to respond to existing RTI queries within the next four weeks. The six parties have not complied with the CIC even after more than six months. By doing this political parties are defying the decision of a statutory authority. The CIC had given its decision of 3 June 2013, after several hearings of similar complaints filed by the ADR and the well-known RTI activist, Mr Agarwal. Earlier, Mr Agarwal had filed a complaint for non-compliance on 29 August 2013 after 12 weeks of the CIC decision. He also filed another complaint on 9 September 2013.”
 

It may be recalled that the CIC, in its decision had ruled that political parties should come under the ambit of RTI, considering that the Election Commission (EC) is the public authority, which plays a crucial role in bringing any political party into existence and its control over them, subsequently. It also took into account the fact that political parties are substantially funded by the government, thus making them, public authorities under Section 2 (h)(ii).
 

A full bench comprising Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra, Information Commissioners ML Sharma and Annapurna Dixit based their judgment on the following grounds: 
 

  • Political parties are registered with the Election Commission of India (ECI) under Section 29A of the Representation of People Act, 1951
  • For the purposes of elections, an association/body gets the status of a political party only on its registration with the ECI under Section 29A
  • Para 16A of the Election Symbols (Reservation & Allotment) Order, 1968, empowers the ECI to suspend or withdraw the recognition of a political party if it refuses to follow the lawful directions and instructions of the Commission or if it refuses to observe the provisions of the Model Code of Conduct
  • As per the Supreme Court judgment in Common Cause V/s Union of India (AIR 1996 SC-3081), the ECI is empowered under Article 324 of the Constitution to require the political parties to submit details of expenditure incurred by them in connection with elections
  • The ECI has directed the political parties to submit their accounts within 90 days after general elections in case of Lok Sabha and within 75 days in the case of Assembly elections
  • Under Section 29C of the RP Act, a political party is required to report to the ECI in respect of contributions received by it in excess of Rs20,000 from any person or company
  • The contributions made to the political parties are exempt from the Income Tax, both for the donor and the donee
  • Recognition of political parties is governed by the provisions of Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment), 1968, which is an order issued by the ECI under Article 324 of the Constitution read with Rules 5 & 10 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, to provide for specification, reservation & allotment of symbols and recognition of political parties and matters related thereto.)
     

Anil Bahirwal, one of the founders of ADR, said, “Non-compliance by the political parties is akin to contempt of court. Such nonconformity by these national parties can be precarious to our democracy and interest of the public at large.’’
 

Our earlier stories on this subject in Moneylife

Political parties asked to designate PIOs and Appellate Authorities within 6 weeks

 

Leading activists call for countrywide public action against amendment in RTI Act

Vociferous protests across country against political parties slipping out of RTI
 

Indian political parties fear RTI consequences; skip CIC hearing
 

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

 

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