Congress, Left oppose CIC order, BJP unsure

New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) The Congress and the CPI-M Tuesday opposed a Central Information Commission order bringing political parties under the ambit of Right to Information Act even as the BJP sought the Election Commission's view.

In a move to pre-empt a unilateral stay on a likely appeal by political parties against the order, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) filed a caveat before the Delhi High Court.

The Congress was vehement in its opposition. "It is unacceptable. It is against democratic institutions," Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed told IANS.

"The CPI-M cannot accept the order... that political parties are to be treated as public authorities and brought under the purview of the Right to Information Act.

"This (CIC) decision is based on a fundamental misconception about the role of political parties in a parliamentary democracy," said a statement from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

"This is untrue because the bulk of the funding and finances for the parties do not come from the government or any state institution.

"In fact, the CPI-M does not even accept funds from the corporates which is legally permissible," it said.

CPI-M poliburo member Brinda Karat told IANS: "We had gone to the commission and argued against it. This is gross interference."

According to Communist Party of India national secretary D. Raja the order was a "disputable" one. "Morally we are accountable only to the people," he told IANS.

The BJP said the Election Commission should comment on the issue.

"The EC should give its opinion," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told IANS.

His colleague Meenakshi Lekhi said the party would take a call on the issue later.

Former CIC Wajahat Habibullah welcomed the order.

"All the information about the political parties is available to the government, but under different departments. Now, the political parties would be themselves responsible for giving the information to the public," Habibullah told IANS.

"The fact that political parties have been held to be public authorities is most significant," said Habibullah, who headed the agency from Oct 26, 2005 to Sep 29, 2010.

He said information about land assets of a party can be found from the urban development ministry and information about its income tax payments from the income tax department.

"But now political parties are bound by a suo motu query to give all information about them. It is a most comprehensive, all embracing ruling," he added.

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

"We have 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 of ADR, told reporters.

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