SC seeks Centre’s response to bring political parties under RTI
New Delhi: The Supreme
Court on Tuesday sought responses from the Centre, the Election Commission and
six political parties, including Congress and BJP, on a plea to declare all
national and regional political parties “public authorities” to bring them
under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
“Issue notice,” a bench
comprising Chief Justice H L Dattu and justices Arun Kumar Mishra and Amitava
Roy said. The Association for Democratic Reforms, an NGO, has also sought a
direction that the political parties be asked to declare all donations,
including those below Rs 20,000 also.
Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, contended that political parties were public
authorities and hence amenable to the RTI Act. The Central Information
Commission, in its detailed order, had held that political parties were public
authorities and hence should disclose the information under RTI Act.
“Political parties do
not have to pay the income tax on the donations and, moreover, the donations
below Rs 20,000 are not to be disclosed under the law by them,” the lawyer
said, adding that these parties also controlled the legislature and the
Earlier, the NGO had
approached SC seeking transparency and accountability in functioning of
recognised national and regional political parties.
It had claimed that the
political parties received huge sums of money in form of donations and
contributions from corporates, trusts and individuals but do not disclose
complete information about the source of such donations.
In its plea, the NGO
had urged the apex court to direct all national and regional parties to
mandatorily disclose details about their income as well as expenditure.
It had also sought
declaration of entire details of donations and funding received by the
political parties, irrespective of the amount donated and details of donors
making donations to them and to electoral trusts.
The petition had
claimed that political parties enjoyed a stronghold over their elected MPs and
MLAs under Schedule 10 of the Constitution that makes it compulsory for members
of either Houses of Parliament or state legislatures to abide by the directions
of their parties, failing which they stand to be disqualified.
Besides Congress and
BJP, the apex court also issued notices to the Nationalist Congress Party
(NCP), Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI(M) and Bahujan Samaj Party on the
plea which was filed by the NGO and RTI activist Subhash C Agrawal.
In June 2013, the Chief
Information Commission (CIC) had held that political parties are "public
authorities" under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act and hence must furnish all
information under the Act.
The NGO and Agrawal
again moved the CIC alleging non-compliance. The CIC then held that its
previous order was "final and binding" and expressed its helplessness
in the matter as the parties refused to appear before it, the plea said. (With
inputs from agencies)