Caveat blocks stay on CIC order on political parties' appeal

New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) Tuesday filed a caveat before the Delhi High Court in a move to pre-empt a unilateral stay on a likely appeal by political parties against an order to bring them under the ambit of Right to Information (RTI).

By filing the caveat, the ADR -- one of the two applicants on whose application the Central Information Commission (CIC) gave Monday's order -- wants to be heard before an order is passed in the case.

"We have this morning (Tuesday) filed a caveat in the Delhi high court so that no party can get stay on the CIC order without we being apprised of," Anil Bairwal, national coordinator the ADR, told reporters here.

The order came on two applications filed by the ADR and RTI activist S.C. Agrawal.

Bairwal said political parties should rather welcome the order as it will bring transparency and accountability in their workings.

"The data obtained by us under RTI show that lands worth crores have been allotted to various political parties and they also get 100 percent tax exemptions on donations. But no political party is ready to provide list of their donors and how the money is being used," he said.

The CIC Monday ruled that political parties are public authorities under the RTI Act as they perform public functions and now need to respond to RTI queries within six weeks.

The CIC said that six national parties -- the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) -- have been substantially funded, even if indirectly, by the central government.

"Why is it that political parties that form the government have problem coming under the ambit of the RTI while the government itself is under it," said Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member of the National Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms.

Explaining the importance of the order, Chhokar said: "It will give right to people to know the criteria of candidate selection, office bearers, party's constitution, election manifesto, among other things."

"Corruption in India cannot come down unless there is transparency in our political parties and this law would help in bringing the same. Several efforts have been made in the past through electoral reforms and by the election commission but nothing substantial happened," he said.

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