Parties fail to respond to RTI plea over funds

Parties fail to respond to RTI plea over funds

Details disclosed through replies by political outfits

All major political parties with the exception of the CPI wanted to act under the cloak of secrecy by refusing to reveal who filled their coffers on the ground that they were not public offices as per the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

This was disclosed through series of replies provided by different political parties to an NGO, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

The NGO had sent a number of queries to most of the political parties seeking answer as to who were their largest donors, their names and address, and the manner of receiving funds, etc. The Congress returned the RTI application with Rs 10 postal order saying that the AICC was not covered under the RTI Act, while the BJP chose not to respond to the plea and so did the BSP.

The Sharad Pawar-led NCP said that it did not have enough manpower to furnish the information. The CPM also sent the application back along with the postal order saying that it was not a public authority so had no obligation to reply.

The CPI, however, in a letter signed by its then general secretary A B Bardhan, it said that it was a public authority since the organisation had substantially financed directly or indirectly by government funds.

“The leaders of all political parties publically maintain that they are committed to transparency and probity in the functioning of political parties. However, when it comes to the implementation, their behaviour is completely the opposite. These replies bring to the fore the biggest farce that our democracy is plagued with – the opaque functioning of political parties with no space for engagement with the citizens and no willingness to open themselves to public scrutiny,” the ADR said in a statement.

Complaint filed

Based on the replies, the ADR filed a complaint in March 2011 with the  Central Information Commission (CIC) seeking direction to the political parties to provide the information.

The matter is now expected to come up for hearing before the full bench of the CIC, along with another complaint filed by RTI activist Subhash Chand Agarwal on September 26.

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