In a landmark judgment in 2013, the Central Information Commission had ruled that political parties come within the ambit of the Right to Information Act.

The tug of war between the six national political parties and the Central Information Commission (CIC) continues as they continue to defy its orders three years after it had declared them as “public authorities” under the Right to Information Act, 2005 making it mandatory for them to fulfil all obligations under the provisions of the RTI Act.

Petitions by several organisations and individuals questioning the defiance of the 2013 order of CIC are being heard by the full bench of the Commission even as a writ petition seeking a direction to the national parties to comply with the order is pending before the Supreme Court.

At the recent hearing of the CIC, advocates on behalf of the Congress sought more time to gather the required documents or on the plea that the senior counsel on behalf of the party was not available. No one appeared on behalf of the BJP, CPI (M), CPI and BSP.

Counsel for NCP Amit Anand Tiwari, attended and undertook to file `Vakalatnama’ (affidavit). In earlier hearing, a different advocate undertook to file Vakalatnama but at the last hearing Amit Anand Tiwari stated that he was his junior. He stated that the hearing in the present matter will be Res Judicata (a matter that has been adjudicated by a competent court and therefore may not be pursued further by the same parties) as the issue is pending before Supreme Court of India.

Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury filed written statements on behalf of CPI( M) and Sudhakar Reddy have filed written statement on behalf of CPI explaining their reasons why the RTI is not applicable. No reply has filed by BSP and BJP.

After hearing the parties present, the CIC while adjourning the case to August 26 has directed that fresh notices to be issued to all parties both present and not present. “Parties shall exchange the petitions/submissions to each other through post and will file proof of service. Parties who have objection to intervention shall file the same by 19 August 2016”, the CIC has said.

In June 3 in a landmark judgement the full bench of the CIC, in response to petitions filed among others by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) had ruled in favour of bringing the national parties under the ambit of the RTI.

The petitioner had sought information from national political parties regarding their income, expenditure, donations and funding.

In March 2015 while holding its previous order “legally correct and binding” also observed that they do not have any powers to ensure compliance of its own orders.

In August last year in an affidavit in the Supreme Court the union government had opposed a plea to bring political parties under the ambit of RTI Act, saying it would adversely impact their internal working and political functioning. It had said that the Central Information Commission (CIC) erroneously ruled in June 2013 that political parties are public authorities under the RTI Act and, hence, are accountable under the transparency law.

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