CIC notice to parties on RTI

Almost seven months after declaring them public authorities under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked six national political parties to furnish details of the action taken by them in compliance with its verdict that told them to appoint public information officers.

In its notices issued on February 7, the commission sought the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to come up with their response “within four weeks”.

“If you fail to furnish your comments or response within the specified time, it will be presumed that you have nothing to say in your defence and the matter will be processed further as per law,” the CIC said and asked that a copy of the comments should also be furnished to the complainant.

The CIC issued notices to political parties on a petition filed by RTI activist Subhash Agrawal who urged the transparency panel to take stern action against them for non-compliance with its verdict. In a landmark verdict on June 3, 2013, the commission directed the six parties to appoint public information officers (PIO) to respond to people’s applications under the RTI Act, declaring them public authorities under the transparency law.

In its order, it gave the political parties six weeks’ time to appoint PIOs and another four weeks to bring in a system for responding to the RTI petitions.

Interestingly, the commission has served notices on the political parties seeking details of the action taken now, after Agrawal filed three consecutive petitions seeking action against them for non-compliance.

In response to one of the petitions of Agrawal in December last year, the CIC informed the petitioner that then Chief Information Commissioner had decided to wait for the report of a parliamentary standing committee, set up to examine the government’s proposal to amend RTI Act to keep political parties out of its ambit.

“Now, since the said report of the parliamentary committee has been tabled, I request strictest action, including issue of show-cause notice, may  be taken against the political parties,” Agrawal pleaded in his petition.

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