New Delhi

New Delhi: Setting a new bench mark in transparency in politics, the Central Information Commission today held political parties are answerable under the Right to Information Act.

Watch: National political parties to come under RTI

A Full Bench of the Commission comprising Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra and Information Commissioner M L Sharma and Annapurna Dixit held six parties--Congress, BJP, CPI-M, CPI, NCP and BSP--to whom RTI queries were directed, fulfill the criteria of being public authorities under the Right to Information Act.

"The Presidents, General Secretaries of these parties are hereby directed to designate CPIOs and Appellate Authorities at their headquarters in six weeks. The CPIOs so appointed will respond to the RTI applications extracted in this order in four weeks time," the Bench directed.

The Bench also directed them to comply with the provisions of mandatory proactive disclosures clauses given under the RTI Act and put those details on their websites.

The case relates to RTI queries from activist Subhash Agrawal and Anil Bairwal of Association of Democratic Reforms who had sought to know the finances of, voluntary financial contributions received by these six parties and the names and addresses of the donors besides other details which were refused as the political parties claimed they do not come under the RTI Act.

During the hearing, Bairwal raised three principal points justifying his arguments that parties were under the RTI Act--indirect substantial financing by the central government, performance of public duty and Constitutional and legal provisions vesting them with rights and liabilities.

"Large tracts of land in prime areas of Delhi have been placed at the disposal of the political parties in question at exceptionally low rates. Besides, huge government accommodations have been placed at the disposal of political parties at hugely cheap rates thereby bestowing financial benefits on them," it said.

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