Skip to main content

Political parties need not act as public authorities, RTI watchdog rules; activists angry

By Our Representative
The Central Information Commission (CIC), the national watchdog of right to information (RTI), has said it cannot do anything about the six national level political parties, which have refused to comply with its two-year old order declaring them public authorities under the RTI Act. Reacting strongly, senior RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak has termed the decision "tame", adding it is a "body blow" to the regime of transparency established by the Act.
According to the CIC decision, as the political parties are not government departments, penalties cannot be imposed on any leader or member and even if imposed there would be no mechanism for realising it. It said, compensation also cannot be awarded to the complainants under the RTI Act, as there is no demonstrable loss or detriment caused to the complainants.
Nayak, who is programme coordinator of the Access to Information Programme under the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), said, "The CIC refused to even make a recommendation to the authorities to withdraw the privileges and facilities provided to these political parties at the taxpayers' expense."
"Instead", he added, "The CIC has forwarded a copy of the order to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to look at the gaps in the RTI Act and take any action it may deem appropriate."
The issue goes back to June 2013, when a full bench of the CIC declared six national level political parties -- Congress, BJP, the two Communist parties, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Nationalist Congress Party -- as public authorities.
By holding that these political parties were substantially financed by public funds and also pointing to their centrality to the democratic process in various spheres of decision-making, the CIC placed them on par with other public authorities that have similar obligations.
Rather than challenge this decision in a court of law, all political parties, including the State level parties authorised the Central Government to bring amendments to the RTI Act to keep them all out of its ambit and prevent citizens from seeking any information form them directly under this law.
While the Bill tabled in the Lok Sabha died a natural death with the dissolution of the House in May 2014, Nayak said, "Hundreds of thousands of people in India as well as those residing abroad joined the nation-wide campaign to leave the RTI Act unaltered. Realising the public mood, the six political parties chose to ignore the order instead."
This made RTI activists to complaint to the CIC alleging "non-compliance", Nayak said, adding, "Most of the political parties showed scant respect for the CIC's proceedings. After making the motions of holding an inquiry over several months, a full bench of the CIC has finally decided to wind up the inquiry holding that it can do nothing to secure compliance with its own orders."
Nayak comments, "The CIC's decision unwittingly or otherwise ends up creating an impression that it lacks the power (or 'mettle' or 'spunk' or 'spine') to ensure compliance with its orders."
This is not the first instance where the CIC was faced with a situation of non-compliance. In 2009 when the CIC faced a similar situation where the DoPT persistently refused to comply with its order regarding providing access to "file notings", the CIC issued notice about launching criminal action against the DoPT. But "when threatened with legal action, the DoPT fell in line."

Comments

TRENDING

Political consensus? Celebrations, with over 5,000 plus post-vaccine deaths in India

By Rosamma Thomas*  As India fully vaccinated nearly 20% of its population and celebrated the “milestone” of administering one billion (100 crore) Covid-19 vaccine doses, it was time to remember those who died shortly after vaccination . By October 20, 2021 Twitter handle C400T, tracking deaths reported to have occurred after receiving the Covid-19 shot in India, updated the 5,134th death.

Is sacrilege charge against Punjab Dalits any different from Pak blasphemy cases?

Lakhbir Singh, his wife By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  There is no doubt that Sikhism actually was a revolt against the Brahmanical system and superstition. Guru Granth Saheb is perhaps the only Holy Book which contains matters from different religions as well as those of various Sufi saints, including Kabir, Ravidas, Baba Farid and others. The aim of Sikhism was to create an egalitarian society, and, definitely, Punjab that way is far better than many other States in India, where violence against Dalits is rampant.

Billion vaccine doses? Devil is in details: 70% haven't got 2nd jab; numbers jacked up

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  India has reached the one billion Covid-19 vaccinations milestone. It is indeed a great news and a big salute to the less paid ordinary health-workers in interiors of India for this feat. The government wants all of India's 944 million adults to get vaccinated this year. Around three-quarters of adults in the country of 1.3 billion people have had one shot and around 30 percent are fully vaccinated, the government says.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Uttarakhand, Kerala disaster due to policies favouring India's developmental mafia

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Two of India’s most beautiful regions where thousands of people go to watch and feel the wonders of nature are suffering because of the extremely disastrous rains and floods. The pain that the rains brought to Kerala and Uttarakhand is a warning to all of us. It's nature’s warning to us to mend our ways.

Religious mobs replicate blasphemy laws, 'threatening' liberty in a free country

Nihangs, Lakhbir Singh By Ajit Singh*   A Dalit man, Lakhbir Singh, was mercilessly beaten up and lynched to death near farmers’ protest site in the State of Haryana allegedly by Nihang Sikhs. It was alleged that he committed blasphemy by desecrating the Holy Book Guru Granth Sahib.

How are Tripura Muslims responsible for attacks in Bangladesh?: 'Concerned' citizens

Counterview Desk  Calling it a “retaliation” of Bangladesh violence, several “concerned citizens”*, including Magsaysay award winning social activist and academic Sandeep Pandey and PV Rajagopal of the Sarvodaya Samaj, have said that the recent attacks on Muslim community in different areas of Tripura is a the reflection of “growing trend of using violence against another community.”

Shabana Azmi joins Pak physicist Hoodbhoy to condemn B'desh anti-minority violence

By Our Representative  Several well-known South Asian activists and public figures of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Maldives have expressed “deep distress” by the spate of violence and killings in Bangladesh on the occasion of Durga Puja and Vijayadashami. “Attacks on minorities are a sign of injustice and a matter of shame for any society and bring a bad name to the Government”, they said in a joint statement.