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].)

  • Like this story? Get our top stories by email.

    User

    COMMENTS

    Ashok Das

    7 years ago

    Is the ruling on this issue public yet?

    Dayananda Kamath k

    7 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 7 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

    7 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

    7 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

    7 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 7 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

    7 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

    7 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 7 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.

    EC rejects Swamy's plea for de-recognition of Congress party

    The Election Commission dismissed Dr Swamy's plea holding that it did not fall under any of the grounds specified for de-recognition of a political party


    New Delhi
    : The Election Commission of India on Tuesday rejected Dr Subramanian Swamy's petition for de-recognition of the Indian National Congress on the plea that it violated rules for registration by loaning Rs90 crore to a company, reports PTI.

     

    The Commission, after its full meeting, headed by Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath, dismissed the plea holding that it did not fall under any of the grounds specified for de-recognition of a political party.

     

    "The ground urged by you seeking de-recognition of the party under reference in the present case does not fall under any of the grounds specified under the said paragraph 16A for such recognition," the Commission said in a letter to Swamy.

     

    The Commission further stated that the 3rd and 5th November letters written by Swamy were "not maintainable" under paragraph 16A of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, which gives powers to the Election Commission to suspend or withdraw recognition of a recognised political party for its failure to observe Model Code of Conduct or follow the Commission's directions.

     

    The Commission has also said that even though the Representation of People Act, 1951 provides for the manner in which the registered political parties may raise their funds, "there is no provision whatsoever in that Act prescribing the manner in which the political parties may use those funds."

     

    The EC letter further states that, "If the party has not complied with any of the provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1961, as alleged by you, that matter does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Commission."

     

    Swamy, the president of Janata Party, had earlier alleged that the Indian National Congress headed by Sonia Gandhi be de-recognised by the Election Commission on the grounds that the party had loaned more than Rs 90 crore to a company named Associated Journals Private Limited, in violation of the guidelines and rules for registration as well as recognition of political parties.

     

    The Commission has also taken serious exception to Swamys allegation questioning EC's impartiality and rejected it as "completely baseless".

    "...the Commission does not have anything to do with newspaper reports referred to by you. The Commission had not taken any decision in the matter on the 3rd or 4th November, 2012 and, therefore, leaking of the decision by anyone does not arise. The Commission takes serious exception to your allegation questioning the impartiality of the Commission which the Commission rejects as completely baseless," the EC said.

    The Commission further said that the reliance placed on section 146 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the General Clauses Act, 1897, in support of Swamy's prayer for a hearing by the Commission in the matter was also "misplaced".

    "The present case is not the case of one such inquiry as contemplated under the said section 146 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951," the Commission told Swamy.

    Swamy had on 3rd November moved the EC seeking derecognition of Congress, alleging the party violated laws by providing a Rs90 crore loan to a company that published the now-defunct National Herald newspaper.

    In a letter to the EC, Swamy said Congress has "prima facie" committed an offence under electoral law as well as Income Tax law for which it is necessary to hold hearings and decide on derecognising the party.

    His petition came as a follow up to his charges against Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi over acquisition of Associated Journals that published the newspaper to which Congress gave the loan.

    He had said Associated Journals obtained an unsecured loan of Rs90 crore from AICC which he claimed was illegal under Income Tax Act because a political party cannot give loans for commercial purposes.

    "This loan is in violation of the Guidelines and Rules that has to be mandatorily followed by political parties for registration as well as recognition. Section 29A to C of RPA and Section 13A of IT Act do not make any provision for any political party to extend loans to companies with or without interest," Swamy said in the letter.

  • User

    No donation given to Kejriwal for political activities: Narayana Murthy

    The Infosys founder had given Rs99 lakh so far, to Kejriwal's Public Cause Research Foundation and brought Tata Social Welfare Trust on board to donate an equal amount to raise awareness about RTI


    New Delhi: After the Tatas, Infosys founder Narayana Murthy on Tuesday said he has not given donation to Arvind Kejriwal for political activities and had declined a request from him for financial assistance two months ago, reports PTI.

     

    Murthy had in 2008 agreed to give Kejriwal's Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF) Rs25 lakh per year for five years and brought Tata Social Welfare Trust on board to donate an equal amount for the same period to raise awareness about Right to Information (RTI).

     

    "When Kejriwal approached me in September 2012 asking for financial assistance, I declined. Hence I have not financially supported Kejriwal's political activities," Murthy said in a statement.

     

    After splitting with Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement, Kejriwal has announced the setting up of a political party to fight corruption and bring in change.

     

    In the statement, Murthy said Kejriwal approached him in 2008 seeking funds for instituting awards to recognise the efforts of officials, NGO and public in the field of RTI.

     

    "I sent Rs25 lakh for 2008 and 2009 and Rs37 lakh for 2010 and Rs25 lakh for 2011," he said, adding the additional funds of Rs12 lakh in 2010 were required to give extra awards, for honouring families RTI activists who were murdered and travel costs of awardees.

     

    "However, Kejriwal wrote to me in May 2011 that the Secretariat of the Foundation was busy in drafting Jan Lokpal Bill and that they would not be able to have the awards in 2011. He also asked me whether it was OK to use this amount of Rs25 lakh towards the secretarial expenses of the Jan Lokpal Bill effort," he said.

     

    Murthy said he agreed to his request as he believed that the country needed a "moderate but effective" Lokpal Bill.

     

    However, Tatas said yesterday it refused to accept the request and PCRF returned the grant of Rs25 lakh for the year 2011. There have been no further grants from TSWT to the foundation, the statement said.

  • User

    COMMENTS

    M G WARRIER

    7 years ago

    What is the moral of the story? Is Murthy saying ‘politics is a bad word’? Or is it his case that industrialists like him in India have ‘arms length’ relationship with ‘politicians’? Let us be clear about one thing. Aam aadmi is not going to buy anymore, the argument that politics is the prerogative of certain families and people like Kejriwal should not come and ‘meddle’ with politics!

    Sunil

    7 years ago

    Our Industrialist too have adapted to Crony Capitalism . They will work with the politician business men and create laws that will loot the public for the benefit of their enterprise.(Nira Radia tapes establish this clearly). How can we then expect the Tatas and Murthy's to fund a drive against corruption and get a mass movement going Nanadan Nilekani clearly can speak out against Kejriwal but will keep silent on all the scams of the govt of which he is a part. This is the reality today and we need to push really hard to get a change.

    We are listening!

    Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.
      Loading...
    Close

    To continue


    Please
    Sign Up or Sign In
    with

    Email
    Close

    To continue


    Please
    Sign Up or Sign In
    with

    Email

    BUY NOW

    online financial advisory
    Pathbreakers
    Pathbreakers 1 & Pathbreakers 2 contain deep insights, unknown facts and captivating events in the life of 51 top achievers, in their own words.
    online financia advisory
    The Scam
    24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
    Moneylife Online Magazine
    Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
    financial magazines online
    Stockletters in 3 Flavours
    Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
    financial magazines in india
    MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
    (Includes Moneylife Online Magazine)
    FREE: Your Complete Family Record Book
    Keep all the Personal and Financial Details of You & Your Family. In One Place So That`s Its Easy for Anyone to Find Anytime
    We promise not to share your email id with anyone