New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has ruled that political parties are not covered under the Right to Information Act.
Dismissing a petition of an RTI applicant, the CIC said political parties could not be covered under the Act just because they are provided government subsidies like premises at prime locations and free airtime for media broadcast during elections among others.
"Even under Section 2 (h) (of the RTI Act) simply concessions provided to any private agency by Government cannot be construed as that agency being owned, controlled or substantially financed directly or indirectly by funds provided by Government," Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said while rejecting a petition filed by RTI applicant Balwant Singh Khera.
Khera who hails from Hoshiarpur in Punjab has sought some information from 12 political parties including Congress, BJP, CPI, CPM among others but did not got any answer from them.
While CPI, CPI (M) replied that they are not covered under the RTI Act, Janata Dal (United) simply returned his application with the fee. The remaining parties did not send any reply to his application.
Khera argued before the Commission that Section 2 (h) (ii) of the RTI Act mentions that `non Government Organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government` are covered under the Act.
"Given the substantial facilities that are provided by the government to registered and recognised political parties such as office accommodation in government-owned houses...”
"...In New Delhi as well as in the states, the provision of electoral rolls free to political parties, free airtime during election campaigns, it can be safely said political parties are `non-government organisation` substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government," Khera said.
Habibullah in his decision said, "We cannot...agree that political parties fall within definition of public authority as defined in any clauses of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act."