Government defends RTI move, says political parties accountable to EC

New Delhi, August 2 (IANS) The government Friday defended the cabinet decision to keep political parties outside the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, arguing that they have to reveal the donations they receive to the Election Commission.

"There seems to be an impression that political parties are not accountable. We get elected by the people. We have to reveal whatever donations we receive to the Election Commission. It is not as if donations to parties are unaccounted for," Law Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters here.

The reaction came after the cabinet Thursday approved an amendment to the RTI Act which aims at keeping political parties out of its ambit.

The issue has been in the news after a recent Central Information Commission (CIC) order that stated six political parties were public authorities and hence were liable to declare their accounts under the RTI act.

Most parties were opposed to the order saying they were not public authorities.

Sibal said donations received by political parties beyond Rs.20,000 have to be declared to the income tax department. "This can also be made public. It is not as if the political parties operate under a veil of secrecy," he said.

"We give an account of assets and liabilities to the Election Commission and also give an account of our expenses, there is transparency. Political parties are not companies nor trusts. It's a voluntary association of persons," he said.

Sibal said parties make declarations to the Election Commission. "We make declaration to the income tax department. The IT department can make it public if it so thinks," he said.

The minister went on to say that political parties are not appointed. He said, "We go to the people through an election process. We get elected unlike government servants and people in a trust. There is a basic difference."

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