Clamour for parties under RTI grows

While the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) is likely to take a decision on Monday on inclusion or non-inclusion of political parties under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, RTI activists say it is necessary that parties are brought under RTI ambit as they claim to work in public interest. Maintaining that their functioning was transparent, political parties, however, have urged RTI activists to push for inclusion of defence information not related to national security under RTI.

The issue came to the fore last week when a full bench of the CIC, comprising Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra and information commissioners Annapurna Dixit and M L Sharma, was convened to decide on whether political parties come under the RTI Act or not. The CIC is considering the case whether political parties, which receive benefits from the government in the form of subsidised buildings for offices, free air-time and various tax exemptions, come under the RTI Act.

As per Section 2 (H) of RTI Act, NGOs substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government are liable to reply to queries sent under the transparency law. Former State Election Commisioner Vijay Kuvlekar said if parties were being "substantially" funded by the government, they should come under RTI. "But as they receive donations from many sources, I wonder whether that amounts to being 'substantially' financed," he said.

However, RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar of the Surajya Sangarsh Samiti said political parties get offices and funding from both central and state governments. "Besides, they get donations from several sources. The public is interested in knowing where these funds come from and who the donors are," Kumbhar said.

Maj Gen (retd) S C N Jatar of Association of Democratic Reforms said, "Any organisation that is registered with the government must come under RTI. Charitable trusts that receive donations and are registered come under RTI," he said.

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