The Accountability Debate in RTI and Political Parties

  • The Chief Justice of India noted political parties’ worries about the potential revelation of internal decisions under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
  • The case before the three-judge Bench asks whether national and regional political parties are “public authorities” under the RTI Act.
  • The court will look into the issue further in order to find a balance between transparency and the secrecy of the parties’ internal duties.

Petitions filed by political parties under the RTI Act Requesting Declaration

  • A number of petitions have been submitted requesting that political parties be classed as “public authorities” under the RTI Act. Respondents in this case include the Congress, the BJP, and other political groups.
  • Concerns expressed: The Communist Party favours financial transparency but is opposed to disclosing sensitive information such as candidate selection processes and internal conversations.
  • Judicial Observation: The CJI noted the concerns, implying that the parties may have a valid reason for not divulging internal candidate selection processes.

Advantages and Governance Role

  • Petitioners argue that political parties obtain significant government advantages, including bungalows, and play a role in governance through legislator control.
  • CIC’s Decision: Political parties were previously designated as public authorities by the Central Information Commission (CIC) in 2013 and 2015.
  • Parties’ Reactions: Political parties have raised concerns that RTI disclosure will intrude on secret meetings, change their posture towards the government, and limit their ability to organise protests against government policies.
  • The Union Government’s Position: The government opposes the petitions, arguing that the RTI Act should not be used to coerce parties’ internal operations and financial information, as this could be abused by political competitors.

CIC’s Interpretation

  • Liberal RTI Act reading: The CIC’s reading of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, which classifies political parties as public authorities, has been challenged.
  • Political Parties Are Not Government Bodies: According to the Centre, political parties are not created under the Constitution or any parliamentary law.
  • Existing openness Provisions: The Income Tax Act and the Representation of the People Act already demand financial openness for political parties.

@the end

  • The issue highlights critical questions concerning transparency vs confidentiality in a political party’s internal activities.
  • In the court’s deliberations, striking a balance between people’ right to information and parties’ right to anonymity will be critical.
  • The decision may create a precedent for how political parties are held accountable to the public while protecting their internal operations.
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