New Delhi, August 24
The Centre has come to the rescue of political parties by contending in the Supreme Court that they would not be able to function properly if brought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and asked to disclose all financial and other details.
“Their political rivals may maliciously file a large number of applications under the RTI Act 2005, thereby adversely affecting their functioning,” the government said in an affidavit filed in the SC.
The Centre has taken this stand in response to the SC notice on July 7 seeking its reply to a PIL for ensuring transparency and accountability in the functioning of political outfits by bringing them under the Act. The PIL by Association of Democratic Rights, an NGO, and RTI activist SC Agrawal, pleads for a declaration that all national, regional and recognised political parties were public authorities.
The SC has also sought the response of the Congress, BJP, CPM, CPI, NCP and the BSP, besides the Election Commission. While enacting the law, Parliament never intended to bring political parties within its ambit, the Centre pleaded.
There were already adequate provisions in the Representation of the People Act 1951 and the Income Tax Act 1961 to ensure transparency in the finances of political parties, the government said.
The parties had to report every contribution in excess of Rs 20,000 to the tax authorities for taking tax benefit, while the Election Commission collected details of candidates’ assets and their poll expenses, it noted.
Further, the EC was placing the information provided by the political parties in public domain by publishing it on its website. “These provisions ensure adequate transparency in respect of financial aspects of political parties,” it contended.
Appearing for the NGO, advocate Prashant Bhushan had pleaded that political parties should disclose complete details of their income, expenditure, donations and funding for public scrutiny.
Great harm was being caused to public interest due to lack of transparency in the political system which resulted in generation of a huge amount of black money for fighting elections. The Central Information Commission (CIC) had declared them as public authorities on June 3, 2013 and directed them to disclose details of their funds, but they were not complying with it, the PIL said.
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