By unanimously boycotting the CIC hearing, RTI experts say, political leaders across party lines do not want betterment and transparency for the country
Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which professed transparency and good governance if it came to power, showed its true colours, by defying summons issued by Central Information Commission (CIC). The Commission had asked the party to attend the hearing to bring political parties under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by declaring them ‘public authorities’. All other five major political parties – Indian National Congress (Congress), Communist Party of India (Marxist)-CPI(M), Communist Party of India (CPI), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) too boycotted the hearing of 21st November, reflecting their united stand to keep their funds, 75% of which comes from unknown donors, a deep secret.
Former Central Information Commissioner and RTI activist, Shailesh Gandhi, terms this as ‘arrogance’ with the intention of protecting their ‘family turf’ instead of betterment of the country. When contacted by Moneylife, he stated, “This is very unfortunate and reflects the arrogance of those who can exercise power. If the political parties are willing to think of the future of India, they would have agreed to become transparent.
Transparency will act as a curb on arbitrary and family controlled political parties. Do they want this for a better India, or are they concerned only with protecting their feudal and arbitrary turf?”
According to a senior bureaucrat, united boycott on CIC hearing by six political parties is an extreme case but the stark reality is that they do not have respect for transparency, accountability and to the highest adjudicatory body in RTI. "CIC decision has attained finality for not being invalidated by High Court or Supreme Court. As such, boycott amounts to absolute disrespect and disobedience for higher appellate authority. As the CIC does not have contempt powers, this disrespect and disobedience is blatant, rampant and dangerous for it can be treated as exemplary and followed by others to weaken the RTI regime," he said.
It may be recalled that, Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) had procured documents of income tax (I-T) returns and statements from Election Commission of the six major political parties through RTI. Its analysis showed that between the years 2004 and 2012, these parties together had received Rs3,675 crore as donations through unknown sources.
However, during the course of their campaign, the ADR and RTI activist Subhash Agrawal, who was also pursuing this issue, did not get some crucial replies from the relevant public authorities. This include, details of 10 maximum voluntary
contributions received by the party from fiscal 2004-05 to fiscal 2009-10 and; 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.
Hence, they filed a complaint with the CIC under the RTI Act.
ADR, through its analysis proved to the CIC that political parties receive substantial beneficiaries in terms of land, use of government buildings at throwaway rates and free airtime, besides the fact they are answerable to the public. On 3 June 2013, the CIC declared political parties as ‘public authorities’ under the RTI Act.
Ever since, all the major political parties have skipped CIC hearings, which wants to thrash out the issue of political parties as public authorities, thrice earlier, and except for CPM, all other parties replied that they do not come under the RTI Act. On 21st November too, they stood united. The CIC has reserved the judgment although the petitioners – ADR and Agrawal, requested the Commission for penalties to be
imposed on these parties (under section 20 of the RTI Act).
The press release of ADR says, “All six political parties were conspicuously absent from the hearing. This defiance was very much in-line as how three earlier notices from the CIC that had already been sent to these parties in relation to the implementation of the 3 June 2013 order, were treated by these parties.”
When contacted by Moneylife, Subhash Agrawal rued, “Attitude of political parties is an insult to an institution formed through legislation passed by the Parliament of which they themselves were the parties for passing such a wonderful legislation. If political parties and Union government were not agreeable to CIC-verdict, they should have challenged CIC-verdict in court. Even legislation to amend RTI Act for the purpose was deferred despite Parliamentary Committee’s recommendations perhaps because the then Attorney General opined against such legislation.”
He also demands that CIC should make strong recommendations to the government regarding this defiance. “Apart from imposing maximum penalty under RTI Act and providing exemplary compensation under provisions of RTI Act, the CIC should make some strong recommendations to Union government, Election Commission, Union Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Central Board of direct Taxes (CBDT), Prasar Bharti and others concerned because of political parties not complying with CIC-verdict”.
Agrawal lists out the recommendations:
1. Further land-allotment at subsidized cost, free voters’ list, free Doordarshan & All India Radio (AIR), and all other government-provided free facilities to political parties may be instantly abolished. All other direct/ indirect financing by Union and state governments to political may be immediately stopped.
2. No further government-accommodations may be allotted to any political party. Existing ones may be got vacated say within three years.
3. Buildings built by political parties on subsidized land provided by governments may be taken over by governments in case of division in the party. Divisions-after divisions in Congress-party left its one time headquarters at 7 Jantar-Mantar Road (New Delhi) in very bad condition. No more land at subsidized price may be provided in future.
4. Union government may abolish all Income Tax exemptions on contribution made to and received by political parties. This will abolish indirect government-financing to political parties through tax-exemptions. Extra revenue so generated for national-development/public-welfare-schemes is much more important than exemptions so enjoyed by political parties and to those contributing to them.
5. Political parties may be made to submit their complete fiscal details including incoming and outgoing funds to Election Commission for making these public through website.
6. Election Commission may de-recognize all about 1,600 non-serious political parties which might not have contested any election in last say three years.
7. Election Commission may intervene for making political parties complying with CIC-verdict by giving them time-bound ultimatum for their de-recognition in case of their not complying with the said CIC-verdict dated 3 June 2013.
8. Any other such recommendations as deemed fit by Central Information Commission for making political parties accountable to public through RTI Act may be made.
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Another mid-cap and small-cap oriented close-ended scheme
Joining the race to launch close-ended equity schemes, Canara Robeco recently launched Canara Robeco India Opportunities a mid-and small-cap oriented close ended equity scheme. The scheme will have tenure of three years from the date of allotment. While this scheme offers a specific allocation range of its portfolio to stocks of different market-capitalisation, will an average saver know how much to invest in such a scheme and would they be aware of the risks?
The scheme would invest 65%-90% of its assets in small-and mid-cap stocks. Between 10%-35% of the portfolio will be invested in large-cap stocks and up to 5% will be invested in micro-cap stocks. The balance part of the portfolio will be invested in debt and money market instruments. In the last six months of the tenure of the scheme, “the exposure to large-cap stocks may go up to 100%, if considered in the best interest of investors, in order to facilitate smooth completion of maturity of the scheme,” mentions the scheme information document.
The scheme defines large-cap companies as those that are among the top 150 Companies appearing in BSE 200 index or those companies whose market capitalisation is within the range of market capitalisation of top company and the 150th company of BSE 200. Stocks that appear in the CNX Midcap index or those with a similar market-cap, will be considered mid-cap stocks. The stocks appearing in the CNX Small Cap index or will a similar market-cap will be considered as small-cap companies.
Ravi Gopalakrishnan, who has 10 years experience in the capital markets will be the fund manager of the scheme.
Nifty seems trapped in the 8,430-8,530 zone
We had mentioned in Tuesday’s closing report that if NSE’s CNX Nifty goes below the previous day’s low, a short-term decline may happen. The Indian benchmark opened Wednesday in the red and stayed there for most of the time till 1pm. After that the Nifty moved higher and remained in the green zone till the end of the session. It also managed to stay above Tuesday’s low, giving hope to the bulls. The market will remain volatile on Thursday when the futures & options (F&O) of November 2014 series expires.
S&P BSE Sensex opened at 28,322 while Nifty opened at 8,450. Sensex moved between 28,261 and 28,470 and closed at 28,386 (up 48 points or 0.17%). Nifty moved between 8,439 and 8,500 and closed at 8,476 (up 13 points or 0.15%). NSE recorded a lower volume of 78.66 crore shares. India VIX fell 3.99% to close at 12.9850.
Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher has said the Foreign Trade Policy will address the exporters' concerns of slowdown in several key markets like European Union and Japan and a lot of policy developments and diversification measures are being worked out to deal with the challenges of exports.
A report by HSBC showed that after two consecutive months of sell-offs, FIIs have net inflows of $5.3 billion in Asian equities with all markets having received positive flows in November. Of the $5.3 billion of net inflows in Asian equities, China ($2.3 billion) regained the top position as the 'most loved' market, pushing India ($1.4 billion) down to second position in the region, while Thailand was placed at the third spot.
Global rating agency Moody's said India's credit trends in 2015 will depend on steps governments takes to address high fiscal expenditures, recurrent food price inflation, and wide infrastructure deficit. The sovereign outlook for India (Baa3) remains stable. The global sovereign outlook for 2015 is also stable as a gradual global recovery supports sovereign credit quality, Moody's said in its outlook report. It released report entitled "2015 Outlook: Global Sovereigns" today.
The Appellate Tribunal for Electricity gave a favourable verdict to Gujarat State Petronet Ltd against the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB). The case was related to tariff revision, and PNGRB has been asked to re-determine the tariff upward. This would be the second revision in the past six months while the first revision was 10.8%. This move pushed up gas stocks. Gujarat Gas (16.87%) was the top gainer in ‘A’ group on the BSE while GAIL (2.75%) was the top gainer in the Sensex 30 pack. Gujarat Gas hit its 52-week high today.
Rasoya Proteins (4.86%) and Kailash Auto Finance (4.76%) were among the top two losers in ‘A’ group on the BSE. The stocks continued to hit their new 52-week lows today. Zee Entertainment (3.96%), which hit it 52-week high on Tuesday, was among the top three losers in the group today.
Bharti Airtel (2.43%) was the top loser in Sensex 30 stock. It was recently in news for it signed the deal with American Tower Corporation through its international arm, Bharti Airtel International (Netherlands) BV.
US indices ended Tuesday flat. The Commerce Department reported that the US economy grew at its fastest pace in more than a decade during the spring and summer. However, readings on consumer confidence and central-Atlantic manufacturing missed forecasts.
Except for Nikkei 225 (0.14%) all the other Asian indices closed in the green. Shanghai Composite (1.43%) was the top gainer. European indices are trading in the green. US Futures too are trading higher.