Pune RTI activists start filing complaints against political parties for defying CIC order to appoint PIOs
The deadline of 16th July is over and political parties are trying devious means to be out of the RTI ambit. Pune activists though have triggered off action by sending a complaint to the CCIC for non-compliance of its order
With the political parties defying the Central Information Commission’s orders to appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs), Appellate Authorities (AAs) and implement
voluntary disclosure of information under Section 4 of the RTI Act, by 15th July, RTI activists from Pune have lodged a complaint with the Chief Central Information Commissioner (CCIC) for non-compliance of the Commission’s order.
The complaint signed by several RTI activists like Major General SCN Jatar (retd), Vijay Kumbhar,Vivek Velankar, Jugal Rathi and others including this writer, has requested CCIC Satyananda Mishra to “take necessary action and order them (political parties) to appoint PIOs, Appellate Authorities & disclose details of their working.”
The letter which has been sent on 16th July states: “This is to complain regarding non-compliance of your order dt 3 June 2013 that political parties—Congress, BJP, BSP, NCP, CPI and CPM—should appoint PIOs, Appellate Authorities and disclose all the details of their working in six weeks i.e. 15 July 2013. We have visited and thoroughly browsed the respective websites of all the political parties mentioned in your said order. We did not find any action taken in compliance of your order.”
Earlier, the CIC had made it clear that it does not have any authority to suo motu direct the political parties to abide by the order. However, in case of complaints by the citizens of non-implementation of the same, the CIC can begin the process once again.
The signatories include Vivek Velankar, Jugal Rathi and V Sahasrabuddhe of Sajag Nagrik Manch,Pune; Maj Gen(Retd) Sudhir Jatar of Nagrik Chetna Manch; Vijay Kumbhar of Surajya Sangharsh Samiti; Dr Shriram Pande, RTI Forum,Pimpri Chinchwad, Vinita Deshmukh of
RTI Forum for Instant Information and Vihar Durve.
Delhi-based RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd) has brought to the notice of the government, of its own press release issued on 8 July 2008 which states the government will not make any amendments to RTI without consultations with civil society. The press release reads thus: “The government proposes to strengthen right to information by suitably amending the laws to provide for disclosure by government in all non-strategic areas. In this regard, it is proposed to review the number of organizations in the second schedule to the Right to Information Act, 2005, and make rules for more disclosure of information by public authorities.
"Government has received representations expressing doubts about the proposed amendments. Non-governmental organisations and social activists will be consulted on the proposed amendments. However, no time frame can be fixed for completion of the process. This information was given by minister of state in the ministry of personnel, public grievances & pensions, Prithviraj Chavan in a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha."
Batra has shot off a letter to president Pranab Mukherjee stating that political parties should seek legal intervention if they do not want to be under RTI Act and not circumvent illegally as it amounts to contempt of assurance given in the Parliament. He states, “Sir, there are media reports that the government is contemplating to counter the decision of the CIC declaring six political parties as public authorities which are subject to the Right to Information Act by amending the RTI Act, 2005. The representatives of all political parties have stated that they believe the CIC decision is unsound legally and hence they are opposing it. If they are being truthful, they can certainly go in a writ to the courts. In the past CIC decisions have been quashed by the courts. In the instant case I cannot see any reason which justifies any amendment to the RTI Act, 2005, by the government and that too without consulting all the stakeholders/citizens at large that include non-governmental organisations and social activists.”
Delhi-based RTI activist Subhash Agrawal states that, “if the Union government and political parties are so sure about a full-bench verdict from the Central Information Commission (CIC) for bringing political parties under the RTI Act to be contrary to the law, they should challenge the CIC verdict in the courts rather than adopting short cut route of ordinance or legislation instead of breaking the solemn assurance given by Union government to people of this nation in the Parliament. President of India in his dual capacity as Head of the nation and the Parliament should honour assurance given in this regard by his government in the Parliament in this regard.”
Agrawal along with Anil Bahirwal had filed a RTI application to all six major political parties seeking information on funding they received from various sources. Communist Party of India (CPI) was the only party which provided a detailed reply. States Agrawal, “CPI should be complimented for being the first and the only political party for disclosing funding made to it by various sources even though it did not approve of CIC-verdict bringing political parties under ambit of RTI Act.”
Agrawal says it is important that political parties should be under RTI as besides funding, “important aspects of poll-reforms can also be queried from political parties through properly drafted RTI petitions which can practically provide nation and its public purity in poll and political system.”
However, with political parties united, when it comes to defending their alleged financial misappropriations, it is unlikely that transparency in this area will come so fast. For, earlier the government had planned to bring in an ordinance to keep political parties out of RTI ambit, before 15th July (the time within which political parties had to appoint PIOs and AAs). However, due to the furore of the civil society, now it has decided to bring the amendment in the form of a bill in the Monsoon session of the Parliament. Guess, even the UPA’s die-hard enemy in the Parliament will not oppose it. Such is the tragedy of our democracy.
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