Even as the political class of the country has rejected the Central Information Commission (CIC) order making political parties answerable to citizens under the Right to Information Act, the petitioners have asked the parties to be gracious and accept the CIC order as it would facilitate transparency and accountability in public life.
While talking to media on Tuesday, litigants RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal and Anil Bairwal from the Association for Democratic Rights (ADR) highlighted that during the process of almost three years since the ADR and other activists started demanding that political parties be considered as public authorities, “they tried very hard to avoid coming under the transparency law by confusing the CIC.”
“If the transparency law is applicable to the government, why should it not be applicable to people and bodies which form the government?” Mr. Bairwal asked.
The judgment, which comes at a time when political leaders across the spectrum are being named in scams and corruption cases, means that the parties would be liable to maintain records for public scrutiny and provide information when sought under the RTI Act.
The order makes it mandatory for the six political parties — the ruling Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India and the Bahujan Samaj Party — to disclose their source of funds and expenditure.
Issues like process of candidate selection and ticket distribution — which are at present internal matter of respective parties — will also come under public scrutiny.
“Even though this order is about only six political parties, we have started the process where we will try to get the other political parties as well within the ambit of the RTI Act,” Mr. Bairwal added.
Talking about the possibility of parties obtaining a stay on the order by approaching courts, Mr. Bairwal said: “If political parties go to court against the CIC order it would be crystal clear before the general public as to who is against transparency in public life.”
Reacting to the reaction of the Congress that the CIC order would “damage” the democratic institutions and political system, he said: “With all humility, politicians must realise that they are not above the law. If somebody thinks that being answerable to the public through the RTI Act would destroy the political system, their understanding about political system, which is much more than just political parties, is rather inadequate.”
Moreover, the ADR, one of the two main petitioners, has filed a caveat before the Delhi High Court to pre-empt a unilateral stay on a likely appeal by political parties.