The Left parties have always maintained that the financial statements and accounts of a political party should be made publicly available, and hence strongly rejected the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) that sought to bring six national parties under the purview of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Disputing the CIC’s argument that parties were public authorities, Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said: “The decision is based on a fundamental misconception about the role of political parties in a parliamentary democracy.”
The CPI(M) contradicts the CIC, arguing that 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 corporate world which is legally permissible. “We would never like to be dependent on the government or be treated like a government department. We would like to keep our independence,” Mr. Karat explained.
According to the law, all political parties are required to submit their accounts to the Income Tax Department and the Election Commission. Already under the RTI, the statement of accounts and finances of the political parties are accessible from the Election Commission. Any further details of the finances of the party can be sought for and have to be given. The party has already put up its statement of accounts and finances on its website for transparency.
Agreeing with the amendment being proposed to the RTI Act that would keep political parties out of the ambit of the law, the CPI-M said treating a political party as a public authority would interfere with and hamper its functioning. A political party is a voluntary association of citizens who believe in the ideology, programme and leadership of the party. That party is accountable to its membership, and to apply the RTI Act and demand access to its internal deliberations would constitute a serious infringement of the inner-party freedom, confidentiality of discussions and undermine the party system itself. That was the argument held out when the CIC order came in June. The fear expressed was that opponents of a political party can utilise the RTI as an instrument to destabilise a party.
The Communist Party of India gave, more or less, similar arguments while rejecting the CIC order. “We are for transparency in the income-expenditure accounts, donors list among other things as we are accountable to the people,” said party general secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy.
The CPI is of the view that there should be right to privacy and confidentiality of a party’s internal discussions and decisions. Non-party members have no right to peep into the minute books, discussions, criteria for selection of candidates, or methods of promotions or even disciplinary actions.