Day-16 Answer Writing Challenge : Model Answer
Question: The Right to Information Act has been a watershed in ensuring transparent and accountable governance, however political parties have eluded coming under its ambit. Critically analyse. (8 marks, 120 words)
- The Right to Information Act provides for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority.
- Democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning.
- Political parties are an integral part of a democratic setup and thus it becomes imperative to analyse their inclusion or exclusion from the ambit of the RTI Act.
- Various national political parties have cited the argument that they are not public authority and hence are outside the ambit of the RTI Act.
- Under Section 2(h) RTI Act, 2005 “Public Authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established:
- By or under the Constitution.
- By any other law made by Parliament.
- By any other law made by State Legislature.
- Arguments against the inclusion of political parties under the RTI Act:
- Political Parties as Public Authorities: Several experts have challenged CIC’s declaration of political parties as Public Authorities. Political parties are formed voluntarily and are not statutory bodies. Their public engagement is by choice, not by law.
- Threat to Internal Discussions: Recently, the Chief Justice of India orally observed that political parties may “have a point” when they fear that accountability under Right to Information (RTI) Act may stretch to even disclosure of internal decisions, including why they chose a particular candidate.
- Access to information: Major parties’ financial accounts are already on the website of the Election Commission. Donor lists and public affidavits about candidates are publicly accessible.
Arguments in favour of Inclusion of political parties under the RTI Act:
- Political Parties are Substantially Financed by the Central Government:
- INC, BJP, CPI (M), CPI, NCP and BSP have been substantially financed by the Central Government and hence considered public authority under Section 2(h) (ii) of the RTI Act.
- Public Character:
- The criticality of the role being played by these Political Parties in our democratic set up and the nature of duties performed by them also point towards their public character, bringing them in the ambit of Section 2(h).
- Transparency is the currency of ‘Trust’.
- This trust is of paramount significance to maintain a workable relationship between the governed and the governing, which essentially emanates from the political parties.
- Political parties can be declared as public authorities, with a mandate to declare source of funding. Confidential information can be exempted from the purview of the RTI Act.