The Apex Court has sought response from the Central government, Election Commission of India (ECI) and six major political parties, including Congress and BJP, on a plea demanding that all national and regional political parties be brought under the ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The PIL was mentioned before the bench of Chief Justice of India H L Dattu and Justice Arun Kumar Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy.
It was filed by an NGO working in the sphere of election reforms, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). The petitioner has also sought a direction that the political parties be asked to declare all donations, including the ones below Rs 20,000.
The prime argument put forward by the petitioners was that all the political parties were “public authorities” and hence amenable to the RTI Act. The petitioner also contended that Central Information Commission (CIC), in its detailed order, had already held that political parties are public authorities and hence should disclose the information under RTI Act.
“Political parties do not have to pay the income tax on the donations and, moreover, the donations below Rs 20,000 are not to be disclosed under the law by them,” Prashant Bhushan, lawyer for the petitioner ADR said.
Earlier, the NGO had approached SC seeking transparency and accountability in the functioning of recognised national and regional political parties. It had claimed that the political parties received huge sums of money in form of donations and contributions from corporate houses, trusts and individuals but do not disclose complete information about the source of such donations.
The petitioner, in its submissions, had urged the apex court to direct all national and regional parties to mandatory disclose details about their income as well as expenditure. It had also sought declaration of entire details of donations and funding received by the political parties, irrespective of the amount donated and details of donors making donations to them and to the electoral trusts.
The court has given all the respondents four weeks time to submit their replies.
(With inputs from the PTI)