Political Parties Don’t Welcome RTI Rule

rtiA day after India’s information commission passed a landmark decision to subject the country’s main parties to greater public scrutiny, political leaders gave their reaction.
Some refused to comply with the order, others dismissed it as “unacceptable” and one of the parties did not rule out the option of appealing it in the courts.The Congress party said it “did not support” the Central Information Commission’s order to make the most prominent political parties subject to the Right To Information Act.
“It is unacceptable. Such a reckless approach will create a lot of harm and damage to democratic institutions as political parties are not government bodies,” Janardan Dwivedi, a Congress party spokesman said. He did not elaborate on how the disclosure of party details would hurt democratic institutions.
The RTI allows Indian citizens to request information from most Government bodies. Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, a senior Congress leader, said it was important to “keep practical control of RTI objectives because they can’t be allowed to run riot.”
Mr. Khurshid said the logic behind RTI was to seek information held by the Government but there was need to strike a balance between what is in the public interest and what is interesting to the public, he said on television news channels Tuesday.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party said it was “unclear” about the CIC’s order. “What new element does it seek to add since the accounts are already open to inspection by the Election Commission,” asked Prakash Javadekar, a BJP spokesman. Mr. Javadekar said the Election Commission should have the final say on whether “additional public accountability criteria needed to be invoked.”
He refused to comment on whether the BJP would submit its details within the next six weeks as the CIC has ordered. Mr. Javadekar said that political parties had the option of approaching a higher authority, such as the Delhi High Court, to appeal the decision. The leftist Communist Party of India (Marxist) slammed the decision saying it would likely “hamper” the working of a political party. “To demand access to the internal deliberations of the party will constitute a serious infringement of the inner-party functioning, confidentiality of discussions and undermine the political party system itself,” the CPI(M) said in a statement.
The party said the latest ruling could be misused by political opponents as “an instrument to destabilise a party” and it would not comply. D. Raja, a senior leader of the Communist Party of India, said political parties should not be treated on a par with government bodies. “We are transparent and accountable to people voluntarily. But we neither come under the RTI, nor are we public authorities,” Mr. Raja said. The remaining two parties, the Nationalist Congress Party, a key ally of the Congress party, and the Bahujan Samaj Party, a regional party in Uttar Pradesh, said they would respond after reading the judgment.


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