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Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Political parties under RTI: Congress rejects CIC order, BJP sees no wrong

By Niticentral Staff on June 4, 2013

Political parties under RTI: Congress rejects CIC order, BJP sees no wrong
The CIC order on bringing parties under the RTI ambit on Tuesday openly divided the political class, with the ruling Congress and few others rejecting it while the main Opposition BJP saw nothing wrong in it.

RTI objectives cannot be allowed to run riot : Khurshid
A day after the CIC gave its ruling, Congress termed it as an “adventurist” approach that would harm democratic institutions.

Its view was echoed by CPI(M) and BJP’s ally JD(U), which also rejected the order passed by the quasi-judicial body.

JDU slams CIC ruling on political parties
“It is not acceptable. We totally disagree with it. Such adventurist approach will create lot of harm and damage to democratic institutions,” AICC General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi told reporters.
“Getting political parties entangled in such unnecessary things will damage the democratic process. We simply cannot accept it,” he said.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said it is important to keep a practical control of RTI objectives as they cannot be allowed to “run riot”.

He said RTI is still an evolving process in the country and its reach and ambit is being tested.
“There is a logic of RTI and this is reflected in its orders. The logic will be tested at various levels including by the courts. I think we should be overtly sensitive to the evolving nature of RTI but at the same time I think, it is important to keep a practical control of RTI objectives because it cannot be allowed to run riot,” the Minister said.

The CPI(M), in a statement, said it “cannot accept” the CIC order that political parties are to be treated as “public authorities” and brought under the purview of the Right to Information Act.
“This decision is based on a fundamental misconception about the role of political parties in a Parliamentary democracy,” it said, adding “This will interfere with and hamper the functioning of a political party.”

Expressing “astonishment and shock”, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav said the order was “no way justified” as “political parties are not shops”.

Asserting that “We are totally against this move”, he wanted the Central Government to scuttle the CIC move.

BJP, however, felt nothing wrong in the CIC order.

“BJP is not against anything that brings transparency and accountability which is equally applicable to all. We will follow the law,” said BJP spokesman Capt Abhimanyu.

The CIC held that six national parties – Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI(M), CPI and BSP – have been substantially funded indirectly by the Central Government and they have the character of public authority under the RTI Act as they perform public functions.

RTI is one of the historic measures of the Congress-led UPA Government in its first term, introduced at the behest of Sonia Gandhi for greater transparency and accountability in Government and Government-funded bodies.

Congress leader Dwivedi suggested that the CIC move would encroach upon the right to privacy of political organisations which don’t receive any grants from the Government and are voluntary organisations.

Underlining that political parties are the mainstay of democracy which “Cannot and should not be weakened”, he cautioned that such decisions would have long-lasting implications.

CPI(M) felt that opponents of a political party can utilise the RTI as an instrument to destabilise a party.

“Given the serious implications of this order of the CIC for the political party system and Parliamentary democracy, the matter should be discussed by the Government with all political parties so that suitable steps can be taken to preserve the integrity and the role of political parties in a democratic political system,” it said.

It termed as “untrue” the CIC observation that “Six national parties are substantially financed by the Central Government and therefore they are held to be public authorities under the Act”.

The party said “The bulk of the funding and finances for the parties do not come from the Government or any State institution. In fact, the CPI(M) does not even accept funds from the corporates which is legally permissible.”

The CPI(M) said one of the concerns of the CIC seems to be transparency of the funding and finances of political parties.

“At present, according to the law, all political parties are required to submit their accounts to the Income Tax Department and the Election Commission.

JD(U) chief Yadav wondered how it was possible for political parties to divulge information about inner matters.

“It is not practical to share resolutions of the parties, which are made in the executive committee meetings and also to share the process of selection of candidates for the party organisations,” he said.
“I fail to understand the logic behind the CIC order.

There is already a Constitutional body – Election Commission – to which every political party is answerable and is bound to function under its directives.

“For any small or big deficiency in the conduct of political party, that political party receives immediate notice from the EC,” he said, questioning, “Does the CIC order now mean that political parties will have two bosses – the EC and the CIC?”

Yadav also questioned why the CIC is only looking at political parties and not at cricket bodies like BCCI where anomalies are happening.

He also hinted that his party will raise this issue in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
With inputs from Agencies)


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