Political parties not covered by RTI act, Centre tells SC

New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS) The central government on Monday told the Supreme Court that political parties were not covered under RTI as they were not public authorities and any attempt to bring them under the transparency law was fraught with dangers of misuse with “malicious intention” of thwarting their “smooth internal working”.

“During the enactment of the RTI Act, it was never visualised or considered to bring the political parties within the ambit of the said (RTI) Act,” the government said in its affidavit.

“If political parties are held to be political authority under the RTI Act, it would hamper their smooth internal working,” it maintained, expressing apprehension that “political rivals might file appliocations with malicious intentions to the CPIOs of the political parties, thereby adversely affecting their political working”.

Describing as “erroneous” conclusion by the Central Information Commission that political parties were public authorities covered under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the affidavit said: “Political parties are not established or constituted by or under the constitution or any other law made by the parliament.”

The government’s response came following the apex court’s July 7 notice, seeking its response as to why political parties should not be treated as a public authority for the purpose of bringing them in the ambit of the act.

A bench headed by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu had issued notice on a plea by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) that had sought that political parties be exposed to public scrutiny under the RTI as they play an important role in national affairs.

Besides the government, the notice was also issued to the Election Commission and national political parties including Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

ADR has sought directions to all “national and regional political parties to disclose for public scrutiny complete details of their income, expenditure, donations and funding including details of donors making donations to these political parties and their electoral trusts.”

The CIC by its June 3, 2013 order had held that six nationally recognized political parties were public authorities under section 2(h) of the RTI Act.

The CIC had reiterated its order on March 16 this year after these political parties did not comply with its earlier order.

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