The Union Cabinet of India on 2 August 2013 cleared an amendment to the RTI Act to keep the political parties out of its ambit. The cabinet also approved a move to seek a review of the decision of Supreme Court barring convicted legislators from holding their seats pending a hearing on their appeals.
The introduced amendment can be cleared in the Parliament by simple majority and will clarify that term, Public Authorities, will not include the political parties.
Earlier on 3 June 2013, the Central Information Commission ruled out that the political parties namely Congress, BJP, BSP, CPM, NCP and CPI are public authorities as per RTI Act as these parties are funded indirectly by the . The Commission also directed the six political parties to share the details of their funding with public as the Public Authorities are answerable to citizens under the RTI Act. It also asked the political parties to appoint a appoint Public Information Officers to respond to RTI queries and adhere to all the legal provisions.
The political parties are registered under the provisions of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 with the Election Commission. Section 29A states that any small group of persons, if they so desire, can be registered as a political party by making a simple declaration under Sub-Section (5) of Section 29A.
With reference to the political parties, detailed provisions exist in the Representation of the People Act, 1951 which provides for dissemination of information relating to political parties, candidates and donations. The said Act, inter alia, provides for –
• Registration with the Election Commission of associations and bodies as political parties (section 29A)
• Political parties entitled to accept contribution (section 29B)
• Declaration of donation received by the political parties (section 29C)
• Declaration of assets and liabilities (section 75A)
• Account of election expenses and maximum thereof (section 77)
• Lodging of account with the district election officer (section 78)
• Penalty for filing false affidavit etc. (section 125A)
The above provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 indicate that there are sufficient provisions in the Act to deal with each and every aspect of financing, its declaration and punishment for filing false affidavit and all such information is made available to the public through the website of the Election Commission.
Under Section 13A of the Income-tax Act, 1961, the political parties claiming exemption from tax are required to file their return of income before the due date before the tax authorities along with audited accounts; and form 24A prescribed under section 29C of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 read with Rule 85B of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961 declaring the list of persons making donations to the political parties exceeding 20000/- rupees.
As per Section 138 of the Income-tax Act, any information with the Income-tax Department would be ordinarily held confidential, but can be made public, if in the judgment of the Commissioner of Income-tax, it serves public purpose.
Under Section 10A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, for failure to lodge the account of election expenses as per the requirement of law, the defaulting candidate may be disqualified by the Election Commission for three years from the date of the order of disqualification.
Section 29C of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, provides that each political party shall submit report to the Election Commission (before filing its income-tax return) regarding all contributions in excess of 20000/- rupees received by it in a financial year and failure to submit this report will deprive them of the tax benefit. Further, the candidates are required to file affidavit along with their nomination papers giving the annual income of the candidate and filing of false affidavit attract punishment for furnishing wrong information.
About the RTI Act
Right to Information Act 2005 mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information. It is an initiative taken by Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions to provide a – RTI Portal Gateway to the citizens for quick search of information on the details of first Appellate Authorities, PIOs etc. It promotes transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. It extends to the whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In order to ensure greater and more effective access to information, it was decided to repeal the Freedom of Information Act, 2002 and enact another law for providing an effective framework. To achieve this object, the Right to Information Bill was introduced in the Parliament and was passed by the Lok Sabha on 11 May, 2005 and by the Rajya Sabha on 12 May, 2005 and it received the assent on 15 June, 2005.
The RTI Act is the flagship Act introduced by the Congress in 2005 to increase transparency.
Who: Union Cabinet
Where: New Delhi
When: 2 August 2013