Slamming government move to keep parties outside RTI, former Supreme Court Judge Justice (Retd) N Santosh Hegde on Sunday argued they are public bodies answerable to the people, who want to know from where they get funds from.

Speaking to PTI in Bangalore, Mr. Hegde, who was a key member of Team Anna movement, said one has to look at the activities of political parties holistically and it’s clear that whether they are in power or not, they are dealing with public issues.

The former Karnataka Lokayukta, who uncovered a huge illegal mining scam in the state, was reacting to the Union Cabinet’s August 1 decision to provide immunity to political parties from RTI by giving its nod to amend the transparency law to keep them out of its ambit by declaring that they are not public authorities.

Mr. Hegde said political parties are certainly involved in administration one way or other. “Fact remains that they are part of body which controls administration one way or other”.

Noting that political parties are powerful organisations, he pointed to instances of their interference, giving the recent suspension of an IAS officer in Uttar Pradesh as an example.

When challenged on such issues, governments claim they have the power do take such decisions. “Who’s the government? It’s the political party in power”, he said, adding opposition parties also control activities of their ruling counterparts.

“I am of the considered opinion that political parties are public bodies; they have a large say in the administration and so, they must be answerable to the people. Transparency is a must in their case also. Transparency is foundation of democracy”, Mr. Hegde stressed.

He criticised political parties for their stand that they are “all-powerful” but are not answerable to people, and that transparency is not applicable to them.

Noting that it’s no secret that huge sums of money is spent on elections, Mr. Hegde said, “People would like to know where they get money from...India or abroad...which industries gave the money...what are the benefits industries got out of that”.

Last Thursday’s Cabinet decision came nearly two months after the Central Information Commission’s order of bringing six national political parties -- Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI(M), CPI and BSP -- under the RTI Act.

The proposed amendments to the RTI Act state that declaring political parties as public authorities under the RTI would “hamper their smooth internal functioning since it will encourage political rivals to file RTI applications with malicious intentions”.

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