Political parties cannot disclose their internal functioning and financial information under the Right to Information Act as it will hamper their smooth functioning and become a weak spot for rivals with malicious intentions to take advantage of.
This was the answer given by the Union government to the Supreme Court against making political parties publicly accountable under the RTI Act.
The affidavit filed by the Department of Personnel and Training said the Act “never visualised or considered to bring political parties within its ambit.”
The Supreme Court had earlier issued notice to six national parties, including the BJP and the Congress, asking them why they can’t come clean and explain their hesitation to disclose complete details of their income, expenditure, donations, funding, including donor details, to the public under the RTI Act.
The other major parties to receive the notice were the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
The EC and the Centre were also asked to file responses.
The basis of the case was a petition filed by noted RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, and NGO Association for Democratic Rights through its founder-trustee Jagdeep S. Chhokar.
They had approached the Supreme Court following the non-compliance of political parties to repeated orders of the Central Information Commission in both 2013 and March 16, 2015.
The CIC had declared all national and regional political parties as public authorities under the RTI in its 2013 order. In March this year, it had reiterated the order as “final and binding.”
“The CIC has made a very liberal interpretation of Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, leading to an erroneous conclusion that political parties are public authorities under the RTI Act. Political parties are not established or constituted by or under the Constitution or by any other law made by Parliament,” the Centre’s affidavit said.
It said there were already provisions in the Income Tax Act, 1961, and Representation of the People Act, 1951, which demand “necessary transparency regarding financial aspects of political parties.”
The Centre said registration of a political party under the 1951 Act was not the same as establishment of a government body.
It said information about a political body was already in the public domain on the website of the Election Commission.