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SC to Centre, EC: Why political parties are not under RTI ambit

New Delhi
Supreme Court issues notice to Centre and Election Commission too
The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the six national parties to explain why their account books and donor details should not be disclosed to the public under the Right to Information Act. The Central Information Commission had ordered, on June 3, 2013, the parties to share such details with information seekers but most of them ignored the order though they have not challenged it. The six national parties are BJP , Congress, CPM, CPI, BSP and NCP .A bench, comprising Chief Justice HL Dattu, Justice Arun Misra and Justice Amitava Roy , issued notices to the Centre and the Election Commission too, demanding that they place their views on the contentious issue before the court. The Congress and the BJP had vehemently op posed to the CIC order, though the CPI said that it was not averse to sharing everything except a few things such as donor details.

In a writ filed in the top court, RTI activists Jagdeep S Chhokar for the Association for Democratic Reforms and Subhas Agrawal, sought court intervention to have the CIC order implemented in the interests of transparency and accountability in the functioning of political parties in the country . Their case was argued by activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan who made out a very strong case to make political parties accountable and transparent.

“Political powers have been endowed with several statutory and constitutional powers in the country .They can disqualify members under the Tenth Schedule for defying their whip. They get hundred per cent I-T exemptions on all donations made to them,“ he argued. “Ultimately they decide the fate of legislators, decide policies. They form governments and control the legislatures. They are also substantially funded by the state,“ Bhushan contended.

The CIC had declared all political parties as “public authorities“ under the RTI, making it mandatory for them to disclose for public scrutiny details of their income, expenditure, donations and funding including details of donors making donations to these parties and their trusts. But political parties continued to defy the CIC, which does not have powers to initiate contempt proceedings, forcing activists to move the SC, Bhushan said.

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