Landmark judgement that brought political parties under the ambit of RTI Act was delivered by the Central Information Commission (CIC) on 3rd June, 2013. Full bench consisting of Shri. Satyananda Mishra and Information Commissioners Shri. M.L. Sharma and Smt. Annapurna Dixit delivered this judgement.

FAQs on political parties under RTI - Myths busted - Click Here

Salient features of the judgement and the case

a)      Political Parties are Substantially Financed by the Central Government: INC, BJP, CPI (M), CPI, NCP and BSP have been substantially financed by the Central Government and hence considered public authority under section 2(h) (ii) of the RTI Act.

  1. Allotment of land in Delhi: Indirect Financing of Political Parties by Allotment of large tracts of land to them in prime areas of Delhi either, free of cost, or at concessional rates.
  2. Allotment of land in State Capitals: Allotments of land to Political Parties in State Capitals as well
  3. Accommodations/Bungalows at Concessional Rentals: Directorate of Estate has allotted Bungalows to Political Parties in Delhi at highly concessional rates; this is also a form of indirect financing of the Parties.
  4. Total Tax Exemption: Central Government also provides to Political Parties total exemption from the payment of income tax against the incomes of the Parties (under section 13 A of the Income Tax Act)
  5. Free Airtime on Doordarshan & All India Radio: During Lok Sabha Elections and State Assembly Elections, Political Parties are allotted airtime slots on Doordarshan and All India Radio absolutely free of any charge

b)      Public Character: The criticality of the role being played by these Political Parties in our democratic set up and the nature of duties performed by them also point towards their public character, bringing them in the ambit of section 2(h).

  1. The Political Parties are the life blood of our polity:  Elections are contested on party basis. Political Parties affect the lives of citizens, directly or indirectly, in every conceivable way and are continuously engaged in performing public duty.
  2. Political Parties are the unique institution: Political Parties are essentially political institutions and are non-governmental. Their uniqueness lies in the fact that inspite of being non-governmental, they come to wield directly or indirectly influence on the exercise of governmental power. It would be odd to argue that transparency is good for all State organs but not so good for Political Parties, which, in reality, control all the vital organs of the State.
  3. Preamble of RTI Act: The preamble of RTI Act aims to create an ‘informed citizenry and to contain corruption and to hold government and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. Needless to say, Political Parties are important political institutions and can play a critical role in heralding transparency in public life. Political Parties continuously perform public functions which define parameters of governance and socio-economic development in the country.

c)      Constitutional/legal provisions

Political Parties have constitutional and legal rights-and-liabilities because of the following:

  i.      Registration of Political Parties: Political Parties are required to be registered with the ECI under section 29A of the R.P. Act, 1951 – a Central Legislation. An association or body gets the status of a political party on its registration. ECI awards symbols to Political Parties under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, only after registration.

 ii.      Filing of Election Expense and Contributions: The ECI calls for details of expenses made by the Political Parties in the elections. Contributions of the value of Rs. 20,000/- and above received from any person or a Company by a Political Party are required to be intimated to ECI under section 29C of the R.P. Act.

iii.      ECI superintendence: ECI is vested with the superintendence, direction and control of elections under Article 324 of the Constitution. ECI is also vested with the authority to suspend or withdraw recognition of a political party in certain contingencies.

iv.      Tenth Schedule of Constitution: Political Parties can recommend disqualification of Members of the House in certain contingencies under the Tenth Schedule

d)     Performance of Public Duty

  1. Setting up of CPIOs: The Presidents, General/Secretaries of these Political Parties are hereby directed to designate CPIOs and the Appellate Authorities at their headquarters in 06 weeks’ time. The CPIOs so appointed will respond to the RTI applications extracted in this order in 04 weeks’ time.
  2. Voluntary Disclosure: The Presidents/General Secretaries of the above mentioned Political Parties are also directed to comply with the provisions of section 4(1) (b) of the RTI Act by way of making voluntary disclosures on the subjects mentioned in the said clause

Roadmap for the complaint

October 29th, 2010 - RTI was filed by Association for Democratic Reforms to sought donations and contributions receieved by political parties :                   Copy of the RTI filed by ADR

November 8th, 2010 - CPI(M) responded and refused to come under RTI: Copy of the reply from CPI (M)

November 15th, 2010 -  INC responded and refused to come under RTI:  Copy of the reply from INC 

November 27th, 2010 -  NCP responded and refused to come under RTI: Copy of the reply from NCP 

Match 21st, 2011 -  CPI furnished information: Copy of the reply from CPI 

BJP did not even respond to the RTI application. Neither did BSP. 

March 2011 - Complaint with the CIC  filed on the basis of above replies. Click Here for the copy of the complaint. Summary of arguments on political parties as public authorities (English) (Hindi)

September 26th, 2012 - First hearing took place at CIC. The complaint was heard along with another complaint of Mr. Subhash Agarwal before a full bench considering the seriousness of the matter and its wider implications. Hearing was attended only by CPI and NCP: Copy of ADR's submission for first CIC hearing.

An additional submission was made by former Chief IT Commissioner Mr. Ashok Aneja. A copy of the same: Submissions on Income Tax exemptions given to Political Parties

November 1st, 2012 - Second hearing took place at CIC and substantial funding given to political parties was discussed in detail. A copy of  ADR's submission for second CIC hearing

June 3rd, 2013 - Landmark judgement delivered by full bench of the CIC: A copy of the Judgement given by CIC to bring Political Parties under RTI

The Way Ahead : Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has already set the process, of bringing all the Political Parties under RTI, in motion by filing the RTIs against all the recognized Political Parties. By following the exactly similar process, the complaints against these Recognized Parties will be filed with the CIC to secure a similar judgement against them as well.

Extra documents as below

Table on status of information to be available on Political Party websites (English) (Hindi)

A brief note on substantial funding given to the political parties

Report on Income and Donations received by Political Parties

Hindi excerpts of the case

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