You can seek information regarding funding of political parties — and how the money is being utilised — from the Income Tax department using your Right to Information, says the Central Information Commission.
The RTI watchdog’s ruling could spell trouble for the political parties, who, except the Left, are opposed to the idea of revealing their financial details.
The parties have to file annual returns on their funding and utilisation of money with the IT department but the information cannot be disclosed under the IT Act. Submitting details about donations received with the Election Commission is a voluntary requirement.
But Information Commissioner A.N. Tiwari on Tuesday ruled that the RTI Act overrules all restrictions regarding dissemination of information in different laws. It would be in public interest to provide information about parties, which control “political executives” to strengthen fading faith of citizens in the political leaders, the CIC order said.
On a RTI application seeking income tax details of all political parties since 2002, Tiwari directed the I-T department to provide copies of income-tax returns and assessment orders of the parties to the applicant, Association for Democratic Reforms, within six weeks. It, however, denied information about PAN cards of the parties fearing its misuse.
Of all the political parties, only CPI and CPM have given no-objection for sharing their I-T information. The BSP said such disclosure won’t be in larger public interest and feared its misuse by rival parties. The Congress, NCP and BJP had similar objections, saying sharing of I-T return would amount to infringement of privacy.
DMK said the information was confidential as it included details of commercial activities, a view supported by the Congress. SP said disclosing the information would be prejudicial to the case related to disproportionate asset in Supreme Court against party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family.
But Tiwari cited various SC judgments and views of the National Commission to Review Working of the Constitution to state that there was a need to bring in transparency in the financial functioning of the parties. “There is a widespread concern about a hyphenated relationship developing between party finance and political corruption,” Tiwari said. In absence of any law for parties to disclose the sources of funding, the CIC explained that the only way citizens can get details was through IT returns.