Information panel member wants political parties under RTI

Political parties can by no means evade public scrutiny as they are essentially public bodies and should be brought under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act says Central Information Commission (CIC) member Madabhushi Sridhar.

Taking exception to political parties rejecting CIC’s order to come under the purview of RTI, Sridhar said that “the Congress, BJP, CPI, NCP, CPM and BSP–whom we have asked to appoint public information officers–have replied in unison that they need not divulge information to the public as they are not public bodies. If a political party is not a public body, then is it a private, family-run organisation? How absurd is this?” he quipped.
He was addressing a seminar organised by the department of communication of Osmania University

The Hyderabad-based journalist-turned-RTI activist mooted amendments to election law that will make the contesting candidates disclose in their affidavit about the number of parties they have switched in a decade. “The affidavit for filing nomination should include this provision and the elected representative, be it MLA or MP or MLC, should be brought under RTI by terming them as a public authority,” he said.

Sridhar, who has authored several publications on RTI Act, questioned the logic behind restrictions on the Election Commission of India to deregister and derecognise political parties. “Today, there are 1,147 registered political parties, most of which do not exist in public domain and contest elections. In fact, some of these have never contested at least in one election.”

He said most of them exist only because, as registered political parties, they can avail income tax exemptions and their public platforms could be exploited for different purposes other than public service. In view of this, the Election Commission should be given a free hand to derecognise all defunct political parties by amending the Representation of People Act 1951, Sridhar asserted.

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