Worldover, political outfits not under transparency law

Worldover, political outfits not under transparency law

Congress spokesperson, Shakeel Ahmad, believes the Central Information Commission (CIC) has exceeded its brief by unnecessarily bringing political parties under the ambit of the RTI Act. Apart from this aspect, this is a completely impractical decision.

Today, a meeting of the BJP is going on in Goa. They are proposing to appoint Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as head of their campaign committee or declare him the next Prime Ministerial candidate on behalf of their party.

Tomorrow, anyone can file an RTI application seeking reply as to why L K Advani, who is a very senior leader of the party, was not given the charge or why he was not being projected as the leader in the next general elections. In case, Advaniji is appointed, then somebody can send a query under the RTI as to why not Modi.

For example, in my party there are at present 207 elected MPs. But Congress President Sonia Gandhi decided to appoint me as spokesperson of the party, besides making me incharge of the party in several states. Now, anybody can rightly file an RTI application questioning my appointment despite having 207 elected members of Parliament. So, this decision of the CIC is thoroughly impractical.

Most of the media reports on the CIC order highlighted only the financial aspect of the political parties. The CIC order nowhere mentions that only the financial aspect of the political parties would be open to scrutiny under the RTI Act.

Under the present set up, we are already accountable to the Election Commission and Income Tax authorities. If Congress or any other party receives donation above Rs 20,000, it would essentially have to be in the form of cheque. Nobody can accept more than Rs 20,000 without getting it accounted. So, all big transactions are recorded and scrutinised. The political parties also submit their audited accounts annually, which is published on the Election Commission’s website. In case of any discrepancy, action can be initiated by anyone.

As far as tax exemption to political parties is concerned, every year Income Tax department gives relaxation to individuals and women assesses having certain incomes as a matter of policy. Should all such individuals be made accountable under the RTI Act as this is some sort of financial help from the government?

So, I would say, the CIC order is totally ambiguous and creates all sorts of problems. There would be huge confusion. During and before elections, we plan our strategy. Anybody can now seek information with regard to the strategy. Is it feasible?

We should keep one thing in mind that the RTI law was introduced by us only. The Congress party was instrumental in making this law. Our sole aim was to bring more and more transparency in the functioning of the government at the centre and state level. Even NGOs which receive huge funds from the government were brought under the purview of the RTI Act.

We follow certain principles and democratic norms. Even in countries like the USA, UK and European Union, where democratic set up has been functional for so long, the political parties do not fall under the ambit of the transparency law.

- As told by the Congress party spokesman to Ashish Tripathi
of Deccan Herald.

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