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Central Information Commission (CIC) has brought six political parties — Congress, BJP, CPI-M, CPI, BSP and NCP under the ambit of RTI Act. Most political parties are against the CIC's decision as they believe that they are not public entities. Should the parties welcome this move as it will strengthen our democratic system and does the CIC have the power to take this decision? DNA finds out

CIC's decision has brought confusion

I welcome the CIC’s decision to bring political parties including the Congress under the RTI ambit, however I doubt as to how it will be executed as there is lot of confusion of its applicability. All political parties have big organisational structures.

To give information under RTI is not a problem, but the confusion will be regarding the extent to which a political party can give information. There are various activities we undertake as a political party and in my opinion, political thought pertaining to the party cannot be shared. There has to be some clarity over this issue. We can give general information but not political information. We regularly share and submit papers with the Income Tax department and Election Commission.

Abhay Chhajed, president, Pune City Congress Committee

CIC's decision based on misconception
The CIC decision is based on misconception and an erroneous understanding of the letter and spirit of the RTI. The political parties under no stretch of imagination can be considered as public authority as defined in the RTI. The financial accounts of all political parties are compulsorily filed every year with the Income Tax authority and the Election Commission (EC). Similarly all election related expenses are subject to strict scrutiny at the time of respective elections, including the candidates.

The financial transparency is there and can be deepened, however applying the RTI to political parties implies that all political discussions, communications and reports over the political ideologies and organisational matters will be public, which will destroy the very foundation of any organisation whether political or otherwise.

Applying RTI will curtail the process within a political party, which has to stand as one unit, with one ideology, one mindset and a coherence of purpose, which is the very foundation of parliamentary democracy. The political parties do not enjoy any state power and they are not run on the finances of the State.
Ajit Abhyankar, district secretary, CPI-M

Citizens in India don’t know their rights
The CIC decision is a welcome move, however it will not start showing instant results as it is a process and it will take its own time.

The majority of citizens in India don’t know their rights and powers. The political parties have their own guidelines, which they have to abide by. The decision to bring political parties under the RTI ambit is taken not only to improve political functioning but also to make citizens more aware about their rights. The political parties collect money on a large scale and the citizens have the right to know how they collect and use those funds. People know that political parties submit their financial reports to Income Tax department and Election Commission, which is their personal matter. The funds with political parties is a matter of public interest and not personal, thus the public has the right to know about it.
Kumar Saptarshi, founder, Yuvak Kranti Dal

This will strengthen our political system
I welcome the CIC’s decision to bring political parties under the RTI purview as transparency and accountability is much needed within these parties. Political parties should welcome this as it will further strengthen our democratic system. The political parties are objecting to sharing their internal discussion, however financial accounts of political parties regarding elections must be brought forward for public scrutiny. These political parties have accountability towards the citizens they work for, therefore they have to come under public scrutiny through RTI. Our demand is that instead of bringing only six political parties under RTI purview, all the local and national parties must also be included. Bringing political parties under RTI will in no way harm our democratic foundations.
Manav Kamble, RTI activist

CIC does not have power to act against parties
It is not that the CIC’s decision will boost transparency and accountability of the political parties. The decision is good but the question is does the CIC have authority to take such decision and implement it. What is the mechanism by which CIC will impose the decision on political parties. The CIC does not have any power to take action against political parties or anybody. The political parties are not government organisations and if they refuse the CIC’s decision, the information commissioner cannot do anything as it does not have any powers.
It is a matter of dispute as to why financial accounts of private organisations cannot be disclosed under RTI. Suppose an applicant asks for information and the body refuses saying it does not come under RTI, because it is not financed by the government. There is a clause wherein the applicant can get information if it is of public nature or if it is in the hands of public authority.
It is unfortunately that the CIC decision is being met with political resistance.
Vijay Kuvalekar, former chief information commissioner, Pune Bench

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