Political parties not public authority, holds MPs' panel

New Delhi, Dec 17 : A parliamentary panel Tuesday backed the government stand that political parties are not public authorities and should not be brought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The standing committee on department of personnel, public grievance, law and justice, in its report tabled in parliament Tuesday, endorsed the government bill seeking to amend the RTI Act.

"The committee agrees with the government that political parties are not public authorities since they are neither established nor constituted by or under the constitution or any other law made by parliament," committee chairman Shantaram Naik said in a statement issued Tuesday.

"They are rather registered/recognised under the Representation of the People Act, 1951," he said.

The committee also noted that provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, as well as the Income Tax Act, 1961, deal with transparency in the financial aspects relating to parties and their candidates.

"Declaring political parties as public authority under the RTI Act would hamper their smooth internal functioning; party rivals may misuse the provisions of the RTI Act adversely, affecting the functioning of political parties. It will be unreasonable," Naik said.

If political parties are made to give information regarding the selection of candidates at block, district, pradesh (state), and national levels, they would have to give reasons, in each case, why candidates were selected or not selected. "And it will be again irrational to make exception in some matters, like internal decision-making process, once political parties are brought within the ambit of the public authority," Naik said.

The committee, in its findings, noted: "Misuse of the act by political rivals with malicious intention may adversely affect smooth functioning of the political parties, which is neither the object of the act nor was envisaged by parliament under the act."

Naik also said "some NGOs which said before the committee that they were not interested in such details are not speaking the truth".

The Central Information Commission, in a decision given June 3 this year, brought the six national parties - the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India-Marxist, Communist Party of India, Nationalist Congress Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party - under the ambit of the RTI Act and directed these to appoint a public information officer within six weeks.

The proposed bill will amend the RTI Act, inserting an explanation in Section 2(h) of the act to exclude all political parties, both recognised and registered, from the ambit of the RTI Act.

--IANS (Posted on 17-12-2013)

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