The government has ruled out amending the RTI Act to give immunity to political parties from providing information after the recent CIC’s landmark order brought them under the ambit of the transparency law.
The government’s stand was made known after parties across the political spectrum joined hands to reject the Central Information Commission’s (CIC) order bringing them under the purview of the RTI Act, aimed at transparency and accountability.
Following up on his party’s rejection of the CIC order, Congress leader and Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said an amendment to the Income Tax Act would work better towards bringing transparency.
Officials in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which acts as nodal department for the implementation of RTI Act, said they have gone through the order and there was nothing that warranted their intervention.
“If a party is aggrieved by the CIC’s order, they can always take remedy measure and may appeal against it before designated courts,” a senior DoPT official said.
The official said the Ministry is willing to clarify in case of any ambiguity in the order.
“If a political party writes to us, we will certainly provide clarification on matters related to the Act,” the official said.
In a landmark ruling, the CIC had on June 3 held that political parties are public authorities and answerable to citizens under RTI Act.
The Commission had said 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.
Asked what the party was scared of if it is subjected to RTI, Mr. Tewari said on CNN-IBN’s Devil’s Advocate programme, “I think you need to make a distinction out here. All donations which are above Rs. 20,000, the donors are revealed to the Income Tax authorities.”
On claims that most of their donations come under Rs. 20,000, so they are hidden, he said, “Look at it in a broader perspective. Look at a party which has a presence across 6,30,000 villages in this country...So, you have a lot of small donors who contribute out of political conviction.”
Asked why the donations cannot be revealed to the country, the Minister said, “For that you don’t need the RTI. All that you need to do is make an amendment to the Income Tax Act.”