Skip to main content

PM’s green signal for transparency in politics: Parties must comply with RTI

By Venkatesh Nayak*
Addressing a meeting of the national executive of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which concluded recently in New Delhi, the Hon’ble Prime Minister is reported to have declared: “People have a right to know where our funds are coming from.” Media reports indicate that the Central Government may be working on a legislation to make the source of funding of all political parties more transparent. An economic resolution reportedly adopted at this meeting endorsed the Hon’ble PM’s appeal for transparency in political party funding, particularly election campaign financing. While this resolution itself is not available on the BJP’s official website, the salient features containing the Hon’ble PM’s transparency call to the party are uploaded there.

Celebrating the 41st anniversary of the judicial recognition of people’s right to know

These path breaking public statements have come less than 20 days before the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s finding about the people’s fundamental right to know.
More than four decade ago, on 24th January, 1975, a five-member Constitution Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court ruled that the people’s right to know was implied within the meaning and scope of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution [State of Uttar Pradesh vs Raj Narain & Ors., AIR 1975 SC 865]. While disposing a petition seeking disclosure of the contents of the “Blue Book” containing instructions for ensuring the security of the then Prime Minister, Ms. Indira Gandhi, Justice K K Mathew explained the important of the people’s right to know in the following words:
“74. In a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything, that is done in a public way, by their public functionaries. They are entitled to know the particulars of every public transaction in all its bearing. The right to know, which is derived from the concept of freedom of speech, though not absolute, is a factor which should make one wary, when secrecy is claimed for transactions which can, at any rate, have no repercussion on public security. To cover with veil secrecy the common routine business, is not in the interest of the public. Such secrecy can seldom be legitimately desired. It is generally desired for the purpose of parties and politics or personal self-interest or bureaucratic routine. The responsibility of officials to explain and to justify their acts is the chief safeguard against oppression and corruption.”
Although the late Shri Raj Narain who lost the parliamentary bye-election from Allahabad contesting against the Late Ms. Gandhi, pressed his demand for openness on the Government of India, the Apex Court’s opinion about transparency in public life can be extended to all public transactions including those involving political parties without losing the basic principle, namely, the people’s right to know everything that is done in a public way. This includes the collection of and accounting for donations received by political parties.

BJP’s silence on RTI about donations received and deposited in 2016

On 10th November, two days after the Central Government announced its decision to demonetise all currency notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 denomination, some opposition leaders accused the West Bengal State Unit of the BJP of allegedly depositing large sums of money in its bank account. They charged the party with having prior knowledge of the demonetisation decision that the Government apparently kept a secret until it was officially announced by the Hon’ble PM in his address to the nation. According to media reports, the President of the BJP’s WB State Unit is said to have claimed that all donations were properly receipted and available for verification.
Attaching a copy of this press clipping, on 14th November, 2016, I sent the following RTI application to the Central Public Information Officer of the BJP through Shri Ram Madhav, General Secretary, BJP:
“At the outset, I would like to congratulate your party, being the main constituent of the National Democratic Alliance Government, for taking the bold step of ensuring the demonetisation of high value currency notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 denomination. I have enclosed a media report published today about a statement purportedly made by one of your party functionaries, that copies of all receipts issued against cash received by your party from the public in the form of donations are available with your party for verification.
Pursuant to the order of the Central Information Commission in the matter of Subhash Chandra Aggarwal and Anr. vs Bharatiya Janata Party & Ors., in case Nos. CIC/SM/C/2011//001386 and CIC/SM/C/2011/000838, dated 3rd June, 2013, holding your party as a public authority under the RTI Act, I would like to obtain the following information from your party, under the RTI Act:
1) A clear photocopy of all receipts issued by your party against cash donations received form any member of the public or any institution or organisation from 01 January, 2016 till date;
2) A clear photocopy of the counterfoils of all bank deposit slips maintained by your party as evidence of cash deposited in your designated bank accounts, across the country from 01 January, 2016 till date;
3) A clear photocopy of all correspondence made by your party with any authority in the Government of India, relating to the issue of demonetisation of high value currency notes that was done on 08/09 November, 2016.”
Apart from seeking details of donations received and deposited I wanted to know whether the BJP had made any formal representation to the Central Government prior to or after the demonetisation decision was announced on the subject. Surely, as the largest national party in the Lok Sabha, the BJP would have formally conveyed some views to the Central Government before or after the demonetisation exercise, on that subject.
The RTI application was delivered to the national Head Office of the BJP on the 16th of November. Let alone send a reply, the BJP has not even acknowledged receipt of this RTI application till date. The RTI application, the news clipping and the proof of their delivery are in the attachment.

All six national political parties are non-compliant with the RTI Act

In June 2013, the Central Information Commission (CIC) declared six national political parties (BJP, INC, CPI, CPI-M, BSP and NCP), public authorities under The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). All these parties including the BJP have not complied with the directions of the CIC. The CIC’s decision and a detailed history of this case of non-compliance are available on the website of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) which is spearheading the civil society initiative for transparency in the working of all political parties.
Three Information Commissioners are currently hearing multiple cases regarding non-compliance of these six national political parties with their June 2013 order. The aggrieved RTI applicants – Mr. Subhash Chandra Agarwal and ADR have also filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) suit in the Supreme Court regarding this non-compliance. Both cases have seen slow progress.
All six political parties have hired a battery of lawyers – young and old, who are raising minor technical matters before the CIC in hearing after hearing instead of accepting their obligations under the RTI Act. Till date, only one RTI complainant has completed his verbal arguments before the CIC. ADR and I have filed Intervention Applications in this case. The next date of hearing in this case is not announced yet.
Given the current demonetisation exercise and the weak provisions in the Representation of the People Act, 1951, for enforcing transparency in party-funding, the RTI Act provides the best solution for all political parties to become transparent. There is no need to reinvent the wheel for the six national political parties. They are already public authorities under the RTI Act. None of them has challenged the CIC’s order before any court of law. The UPA Government’s Bill to insulate all political parties at the national and the State level from the RTI Act lapsed with the dissolution of the 14th Lok Sabha in May 2014. So there is no legal obstacle for the six national political parties to lead the way for other State level political parties towards transparency.
Will the BJP live up to its tallest leader’s vision of transparency and lead by example as desired is a question every citizen should ask. They can embark on this exercise by appointing CPIOs and first appellate authorities under the RTI Act and disclose their organisational details and funding and spending in accordance with Section 4(1) of the Act.
The Hon’ble PM has shown the green signal for greater transparency in political affairs. Will the Raths of all political parties move in this direction remains to be seen.

*Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi

Comments

TRENDING

Vishwanath has been unfairly excluded from global list of 100 best cricketers

By Harsh Thakor  Gundappa Vishwanath scaled zones in batting artistry or wizardry unparalleled amongst Indian batsmen. The best of his batting was a manifestation of the divine. He was also the epitome of cricketing sportsmanship. Sadly 40 years ago he unceremoniously bid farewell to the International cricket world, after the concluding test at Karachi in 1982-83., in January end. Very hard to visualise a character like Vishwanath being reborn today His memories are embedded in cricket lovers today when sportsmanship and grace have virtually been relegated to oblivion with the game of cricket turned into a commercial commodity. Today agro and unsporting behaviour is a routine feature Vishy shimmered cricket’s spirituality. His behaviour on the cricket field was grace personified, No one in his age defined cricket more as a gentleman’s game, than Vishy. Vishwanath could execute strokes that were surreal with his steel wrists. His strokeplay resembled the touches of a painter’s brush,

Abrogation of Art 370: Increasing alienation, relentless repression, simmering conflict

One year after the abrogation by the Central Government of Art. 370 in Kashmir, what is the situation in the Valley. Have the promises of peace, normalcy and development been realised? What is the current status in the Valley? Here is a detailed note by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties , “Jammu & Kashmir: One Year after Abrogation of Art. 370: Increasing Alienation, Relentless Repression, Simmering Conflict”:

Reproductive, conjugal rights of women in India amidst debate of uniform civil code

By IMPRI Team  A Three-Day Immersive Online Legal Awareness and Certificate Training Course on “Reproductive and Conjugal Rights of Women in India” is an initiative of the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), at the IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, and ran for three consecutive days starting from December 22, 2022 to December 24, 2022. The online paid certification was aimed to provide attendees with an enriching experience on the gender discourse with a special focus on women’s rights and the much-discussed reproductive rights in India.

Covid jabs: Pretexts cited to justify young, healthy succumbing to heart attacks

By Jay Ihsan   Truth is stranger than fiction – when dedicated doctors raised the red flag against the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, they were persecuted and their concerns barred from being heard. These honest doctors unequivocally made it known the Moderna Pfizer vaccines injure the heart and human body. One of them, Dr Peter McCullough, an American cardiologist, has repeatedly issued the clarion call to people to reject these harmful vaccines. An equally alarmed World Council for Health said the harmful Covid-19 vaccines should be removed from the market and the global inoculation must be stopped. “In Japan the vaccines were not mandated or made compulsory. The vaccines are not safe or effective enough to mandate them. The day the vaccines go away will be a day of celebration,” Dr Mccullough had lamented during an interview with India’s media outfit, Qvive several months ago. Meanwhile, the number of people jabbed with the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines died soon after or have developed lifelong

Gender gap 17%, SC and ST levels of education between 7% to 14% below upper classes

By IMPRI Team  The treatment of school education in a holistic manner and improving school effectiveness in terms of equal opportunities for schooling and learning outcomes has been the aspiration of all and multiple challenges are faced to maintain and provide proper education. On the occasion of India@75: Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, as part of its series- the State of Education- #EducationDialogue, #IMPRI Center for ICT for Development (CICTD), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organised a special deliberation on The State of School Education In India with Prof Muchkund Dubey, who is the President of the Council for Social Development, New Delhi. The moderator for the event, Dr Simi Mehta CEO and Editorial Director of the IMPRI. The chair of the event was Prof Jandhyala B.G. Tilak, an Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) National Fellow, the Distinguished Professor at the Council for Social Development, New Delhi and also a Former Professor & Vice-Ch

Rahul Dravid exhibited selflessness in heights unscaled by any other Indian batsman

By Harsh Thakor*  On January 11th maestro Rahul Dravid turned 50. No Indian batsmen were ever more of an embodiment of temperament or grit.as Rahul Dravid. Dravid was the best ambassador of sportsmanship in cricket in his day and age. In his time no Asian batsmen did what the doctor ordered, to the extent of Dravid. Dravid was manifestation of single-mindedess, tenacity and selflessness in sport. One hardly has an adjective to the ice coolness and craft Dravid exhibited in adjusting to the given situation. Rarely did any batsmen exhibit such a clinical o methodical approach to batting.

Data analytics: How scientific enquiry process impacts quality of policy research

By IMPRI Team  Given the multidimensionality of policy and impact research, tech-driven policy prescriptions are playing a dominant role in the 21st century. As such, data analytics have become integral in this space. IMPRI Generation Alpha Data Centre (GenAlphaDC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute New Delhi has successfully conducted a #WebPolicyTalk 6-Week Immersive Online Hands-on Certificate Training Course on Data Analytics for Policy Research, spanning over 6-consecutive Saturdays from October 15th to November 19th, 2022. Along with this, datasets for hands-on learning were also provided for data analysis and learning. Participants were required to make a submission for evaluation at the end of the course, to obtain the certificate. This course comprised hands-on data learning sessions and various expert sessions on data discourses. The course especially catered to data and policy enthusiasts – including students, professionals, researchers, and other individuals lo

NHRC blindly followed BSF status report on fencing farmland off Indo-Bangladesh border

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) writes an open letter of protest against the action taken status report on restriction imposed by the BSF personnel upon the villagers of Changmari near Indo-Bangladesh border: *** I have the honour to inform you that we received one action taken status report dated 11.01.2023 from your Commission in respect of the above referred case from where it is revealed that your authority closed the case based on the report of the concerned authorities. In this connection I again raise my voice as the enquiry in respect of the above referred case was not properly conducted. Hence I submit this open letter of protest for the ends of justice. From the action taken status report of the Commission dated 11.01.2023 it is reported that concerned authority submitted a report dated 18.01.2022 where it is reported that the concerned area comes under the OPS responsibility of BOP Chengmari, 62 Bn BSF and is highly susceptible to trans-bo

Great march of migrants during lockdown: Lessons not learned, missed opportunities

By IMPRI Team  A panel discussion on “The Great March of Migrants During The National Lockdown: Lessons Not Learned and Missed Opportunities” was organized by the #IMPRI Center for Human Centre for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi on the occasion of International Migrants Day, i.e December 18, 2022. Inaugurating the session, Ms Aanchal Kumari, a researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. The event was moderated by Dr Devender Singh, a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. The panellists included Prof. R.B Bhagat, Professor and Head, Department of Migration and Urban Studies, International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai; Prof Arun Kumar, Distinguished Economist, a Former Professor Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi and Malcolm S. Adiseshiah Chair Professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi; Ms Akriti Bhatia, Founder of People

Brutal assault on Delhi Univ students as fear grips present rulers on rise of dissent

By Arhaan Baaghi  Various democratic student organizations (bsCEM, fraternity, DSU, SIO, AIRSO) had planned a screening of the BBC documentary "India: The Modi Question" in the Delhi University Arts Faculty, but the guards of the university and the Delhi police along with paramilitary forcefully detained the students just because we were trying to watch a documentary that scrutinizes the role of Modi in 2002 Gujarat riots. At first when the students started screening the documentary, the electricity of the department building was cut down. Students were brutally beaten by the police and university guards. Female students were also brutally manhandled and beaten. This whole incident shows the Brahmanical Hindutva fascist nature of the government and the university authority that is working as its puppet. An activist of bsCEM was manhandled by a male security guard, who tried to pull out his T shirt. Also various female activist were dragged by male security guards and their h