The Centre has told the Supreme Court that political parties cannot be brought under the ambit of the transparency law, claiming it would lead to “malicious applications” under the Right to Information Act (RTI) by rivals and adversely affect their “smooth internal functioning.”
“Declaring a political party a public authority under the RTI Act would hamper its smooth internal working, which is not the objective of the Act and was not envisaged by Parliament. Further, political rivals may maliciously file a larger number of applications under the Act, thereby adversely affecting the political functioning of the parties,” read the Department of Personnel and Training’s affidavit.
The NDA government’s stand comes in response to a court direction asking to clarify its position on the issue raised by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) — a non-political group — before the top court.
ADR wants the court to initiate contempt action against political parties for disobeying the 2013 Central Information Commission verdict declaring them public authorities and amenable to RTI.
Coming out in support of political parties, the Centre said a bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha to amend the 2005 Act to exclude political parties from the definition of public authority.
The bill was referred to a standing committee in September 2013, which recommended the Lok Sabha to pass it. However, it was not taken up for consideration and lapsed with the dissolution of the House.
The government submitted that “during the process of enactment of the RTI Act, it was never considered to bring the parties within the ambit of the said Act.” It added that parties are neither owned nor funded by the government and, hence, cannot be a public authority.
ADR’s petition, meanwhile, says the practice of subjecting funds to public scrutiny was common around the world.