Political parties under RTI: Petition urges CIC to act against non-compliance
What is the point of the Right to Information (RTI) if rulings given by top RTI body of the country cannot be complied with? Concerned with this question, a citizen's group has decided to petition the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) in the case pertaining to bringing political parties under the ambit of RTI. The case has languished in spite of a conclusive order by the CIC, delivered four years ago.
Citizens Forum India, a grouping of concerned citizens, has drafted a petition addressed to the CIC through the website www.change.org. The petition, so far signed by over 1400 supporters, appeals to the top RTI officer of the country to take steps to ensure that the order given by the Commission in 2013 is enforced.
In 2010, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) had filed a complaint and RTI activist Subhash Agarwal filed a petition on the issue with the CIC. A full bench of the CIC delivered a landmark judgment three years later, on June 3, 2013. Six national parties - INC, BJP, CPI (M), CPI, NCP and BSP- were declared Public Authorities within the purview of the RTI Act.
However, four years have passed and these parties are yet to comply with the order. In fact, CIC admitted in March 2015 its sheer inability to force compliance of its order. The petitioners eventually moved the Supreme Court appealing to the top court to ensure implementation of the order. The case is still being heard in the SC and is likely to come up for hearing next on October 27.
The petition that Citizens Forum India has initiated is designed to complement the efforts of all those who have already been fighting for this cause. It says that since the CIC order was not challenged before any higher court, its “acquired force of law as a binding order”. That essentially implies that non-compliance of the order is an illegal act.
“Such a blatant and flagrant defiance of the orders of a Constitutional authority is unprecedented in the annals of Indian judicial history”, the petition says. It adds that the “inordinate delay" on the part of the Commission in not concluding the proceedings” is enabling these political parties to “defy binding orders of the CIC indefinitely”.
The Commission, the petitioners argue, cannot be seen to be “abdicating its constitutional duty in a matter of this nature and import” and must take steps to ensure implementation. The steps that the petition suggests include -
(i) To have the complaint on non-compliance decided forthwith;
(ii) To ensure compliance with the Commission’s Order of 3rd June 2013 by all the six Political parties; and
(iii) To proactively make public the actions taken by the Commission to ensure compliance by the Political Parties with the RTI Act.
The people behind the petition include Bharti Sinha Sahay, Shahid Khan, Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya and Maqbool Mateen. Bharti is an architect by profession but has taken a break from her professional practice to pursue an active role as a citizen activist.
Shahid Khan is a former officer of the Indian Revenue Service and has served on various key positions, including Member, CBDT. He is an expert in tax laws and tax administration and is also associated with NIPFP and ADR.
Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya is an entrepreneur working in the rural sector and is co-founder/CEO of 'ekgaon' technologies.
Maqbool Mateen is a former aviation professional as well as a former businessman. He is now a social activist and is associated with ‘Hindustan United Movement’ (HUM), an organisation creating awareness amongst voters.
Speaking to Catch, Sahay said the objective behind this petition is to create awareness on the issue and create public pressure on the CIC to take action for non-compliance of its orders.
Lauding the initiative, Jagdeep Chhokar, ADR founder and trustee, said funding of political parties is currently a black box and is the foundation of almost entire corruption in the country. This petition will certainly help in creating awareness among the general public about this critical issue, Chhokar added.