New Delhi

RTI, RTI Act, ruling BJP government, political parties, CIC hearing, transparency in government, good governance.

By unanimously boycotting the CIC hearing, RTI experts say, political leaders across party lines do not want betterment and transparency for the country


Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which professed transparency and good governance if it came to power, showed its true colours, by defying summons issued by Central Information Commission (CIC). The Commission had asked the party to attend the hearing to bring political parties under the Right to Information (RTI) Act by declaring them ‘public authorities’. All other five major political parties – Indian National Congress(Congress), Communist Party of India (Marxist)-CPI(M), Communist Party of India (CPI), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) too boycotted the hearing of 21st November, reflecting their united stand to keep their funds, 75% of which comes from unknown donors, a deep secret.

Former Central Information Commissioner and RTI activist, Shailesh Gandhi, terms this as ‘arrogance’ with the intention of protecting their ‘family turf’ instead of betterment of the country. When contacted by Moneylife, he stated, “This is very unfortunate and reflects the arrogance of those who can exercise power. If the political parties are willing to think of the future of India, they would have agreed to become transparent.


Transparency will act as a curb on arbitrary and family controlled political parties. Do they want this for a better India, or are they concerned only with protecting their feudal and arbitrary turf?”

According to a senior bureaucrat, united boycott on CIC hearing by six political parties is an extreme case but the stark reality is that they do not have respect for transparency, accountability and to the highest adjudicatory body in RTI. "CIC decision has attained finality for not being invalidated by High Court or Supreme Court.  As such, boycott amounts to absolute disrespect and disobedience for higher appellate authority. As the CIC does not have contempt powers, this disrespect and disobedience is blatant, rampant and dangerous for it can be treated as exemplary and followed by others to weaken the RTI regime," he said.

It may be recalled that, Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) had procured documents of income tax (I-T) returns and statements from Election Commission of the six major political parties through RTI. Its analysis showed that between the years 2004 and 2012, these parties together had received Rs3,675 crore as donations through unknown sources.

However, during the course of their campaign, the ADR and RTI activist Subhash Agrawal, who was also pursuing this issue, did not get some crucial replies from the relevant public authorities. This include, details of 10 maximum voluntary

contributions received by the party from fiscal 2004-05 to fiscal 2009-10 and; details pertaining to voluntary contributors along with their addresses who have made single contribution of more than Rs1 lakh to the party from fiscal 2004-05 to fiscal 2009-10.


Hence, they filed a complaint with the CIC under the RTI Act.

ADR, through its analysis proved to the CIC that political parties receive substantial beneficiaries in terms of land, use of government buildings at throwaway rates and free airtime, besides the fact they are answerable to the public. On 3 June 2013, the CIC declared political parties as ‘public authorities’ under the RTI Act.

Ever since, all the major political parties have skipped CIC hearings, which wants to thrash out the issue of political parties as public authorities, thrice earlier, and except for CPM, all other parties replied that they do not come under the RTI Act. On 21st November too, they stood united. The CIC has reserved the judgment although the petitioners – ADR and Agrawal, requested the Commission for penalties to be
imposed on these parties (under section 20 of the RTI Act).

The press release of ADR says, “All six political parties were conspicuously absent from the hearing. This defiance was very much in-line as how three earlier notices from the CIC that had already been sent to these parties in relation to the implementation of the 3 June 2013 order, were treated by these parties.”

When contacted by Moneylife, Subhash Agrawal rued, “Attitude of political parties is an insult to an institution formed through legislation passed by the Parliament of which they themselves were the parties for passing such a wonderful legislation. If political partiesand Union government were not agreeable to CIC-verdict, they should have challenged CIC-verdict in court. Even legislation to amend RTI Act for the purpose was deferred despite Parliamentary Committee’s recommendations perhaps because the then Attorney General opined against such legislation.”  

He also demands that CIC should make strong recommendations to the government regarding this defiance. “Apart from imposing maximum penalty under RTI Act and providing exemplary compensation under provisions of RTI Act, the CIC should make some strong recommendations to Union government, Election Commission, Union Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Central Board of direct Taxes (CBDT), Prasar Bharti and others concerned because of political parties not complying with CIC-verdict”.


Agrawal lists out the recommendations:

1.      Further land-allotment at subsidized cost, free voters’ list, free Doordarshan & All India Radio (AIR), and all other government-provided free facilities to political partiesmay be instantly abolished. All other direct/ indirect financing by Union and state governments to political may be immediately stopped.

2.      No further government-accommodations may be allotted to any political party. Existing ones may be got vacated say within three years.

3.      Buildings built by political parties on subsidized land provided by governments may be taken over by governments in case of division in the party. Divisions-after divisions in Congress-party left its one time headquarters at 7 Jantar-Mantar Road (New Delhi) in very bad condition. No more land at subsidized price may be provided in future.

4.      Union government may abolish all Income Tax exemptions on contribution made to and received by political parties. This will abolish indirect government-financing topolitical parties through tax-exemptions. Extra revenue so generated for national-development/public-welfare-schemes is much more important than exemptions so enjoyed by political parties and to those contributing to them.

5.      Political parties may be made to submit their complete fiscal details including incoming and outgoing funds to Election Commission for making these public through website.

6.      Election Commission may de-recognize all about 1,600 non-serious political partieswhich might not have contested any election in last say three years.

7.      Election Commission may intervene for making political parties complying with CIC-verdict by giving them time-bound ultimatum for their de-recognition in case of their not complying with the said CIC-verdict dated 3 June 2013.

8.      Any other such recommendations as deemed fit by Central Information Commission for making political parties accountable to public through RTI Act may be made.

© Association for Democratic Reforms
Privacy And Terms Of Use
Donation Payment Method