New Delhi: Major political parties on Thursday vehemently opposed any move to bring them under the ambit of the Right to Information Act saying that facilities and subsidised buildings given for their offices do not constitute funding from the government. A Full Bench of the CIC comprising Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra and information commissioners Annapurna Dixit and M L Sharma was convened to decide on whether political parties should come under the RTI Act.
According to the RTI Act, a non-governmental body is declared a public authority if it is substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government. Such public authorities are answerable to public queries raised under the transparency law.
During the hearing, all major national parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) except the Congress were present while the CPI had already represented their case during the last hearing. Speaking for the NCP, its counsel Amit Anand Tiwari said that according to the RTI Act, public interest is not a criterion to declare a body public authority. He also said if the details of the donors and such details are put in public domain, other parties might threaten them and thus bring down the entire electoral process.
The BSP, represented by lawyer Shail Dwivedi, claimed that there was not "direct or indirect funding" by the government and the facilities like free air time, buildings at cheap rents and other facilities do not constitute funding.
Similar arguments were put forth by the CPI-M Politburo member Ramachandran Pillai who said 40 per cent of its funds come from its cadre which is slightly over 10 lakh across the country as membership of annual Rs two annually while rest come from 'levy' and donations and it was practically impossible to give such details.