Will parties comply with CIC Bench order today?

Panel said RTI Act was applicable to them

January 07, 2015 12:28 am | Updated December 04, 2021 11:20 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Will India’s national political parties continue to ignore the Central Information Commission, the top agency for implementation of the Right to Information Act? On Wednesday afternoon, the answer will be clear.

In June 2013, a >full Bench of the CIC ruled that since the six national parties — the Congress, the BJP, the CPI, the CPI(M), the NCP and the BSP — enjoy substantial public funding and the nature of their duties points towards their public character, they should be classified as ‘public authorities,’ and the RTI Act be made applicable to them.

Eighteen months later, the parties have not complied with the order. Neither did they seek a revision nor did they move any competent court. At a full Bench hearing on the parties’ non-compliance in November, no party sent a representative.

Following their no-show, the Bench passed an interim order giving the parties one more opportunity to appear before it, directing the parties’ presidents or general secretaries to appear before it in person on January 7. It is unclear whether the parties will comply this time around either. Spokespersons for both the Congress and the BJP could not tell The Hindu whether a representative would appear on Wednesday.

On their part, the petitioners told The Hindu they would demand that compensation and a penalty be imposed on the political parties if they once again disobey the CIC’s orders. Jagdeep Chhokar, co-founder of the Association for Democratic Reform, asked the CIC to direct that political parties should pay five per cent of their declared annual income, a sum of Rs. 44 crore, to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.

RTI activist Subhash Agarwal, also a petitioner in the case, appealed to the Bench to abolish subsidised land allotment to these parties, free air-time on official media, government accommodation and Income Tax exemptions.

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