The representatives of the political parties argued that since they already provide details to the Election Commission and the Income Tax department under the Representation of People’s Act, there is no need to include them under RTI.
The full bench, comprising Chief Information Commissioner Satyanand Mishra and Commissioners M L Sharma and Annapurna Dikshit, reserved their order on Thursday.
The appeals before the CIC were filed by RTI activist Subhash Aggarwal and Anil Bairwal of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), whose queries were reportedly returned by political parties which claimed that they did not come under the ambit of the RTI Act as they are not “public authorities”.
“There are many things discussed at different levels of the party. Divulging certain details under the RTI Act may distort the entire process of internal democracy of the party,” argued Ramchandran Pillai, appearing for the CPI(M). He added that donors who contribute over Rs 20,000 are already disclosed to the EC and I-T department.
Amit Anand Tewari, appearing for the NCP, argued that the parties would have to divert a lot of resources to create a system of public information officers and first appellate authorities if they are covered under the RTI Act.
“This is not a valid point since it is true for every public authority,” countered Sharma.
BJP’s Subhasish Shourya said since the Act does not deal with the matter of political parties, it is clear that the intention of the Act was not to include them.
This issue before the commission is whether the political parties can be incuded as “public authorities” as defined under 2(h)(d)(I), which includes “owned, controlled or substantially financed” bodies.
The appellants claimed that since the parties are allotted government land at subsidised rates and are allotted free time on All India Radio and Doordarshan among other things, they must be covered under the transparency law.