Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Tuesday acknowledged the apprehensions of political parties about disclosing their internal decisions under the Right to Information Act, reported The Hindu.
The Supreme Court was hearing a batch of petitions seeking that national and regional political parties be declared public authorities under the Right to Information Act. The Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) are among respondents in the case.
On Tuesday, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) told the court that although it supported the cause of financial transparency of political parties, it was against being compelled to reveal confidential information like which candidate was selected for what reasons and what discussions happened within the political party.
“They have a point,” Chandrachud remarked verbally. “They say, don’t ask us to disclose how we chose our candidates… I don’t think you can do that.”
However, advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing petitioners, including the Association for Democratic Reforms, cited the Central Information Commission’s judgement in 2013 that had declared the national and the regional political parties to be public authorities, reported Live Law. The Central Information Commission is the top appellate body under the Right to Information Act.
Bhushan told the court that political parties receive substantial funding and various privileges from the government, making them significant players in the state’s affairs. Political parties are registered under the Election Commission, which is a public authority, and this makes them accountable under the Right to Information Act, he argued.
Notably in 2016, the Centre had called the Central Information Commission’s interpretation on political parties as erroneous, reported The Hindu. It had argued that the Income Tax Act, 1961, and Representation of the People Act, 1951, already have provisions demanding necessary transparency regarding financial aspects of political parties.
In the present case too, the Centre has opposed the petitions saying that disclosing party’s internal functioning and financial information under the law would hamper smooth internal working. It has also argued that such information can make them vulnerable to political rivals with “malicious intentions”, reported The Hindu.
The Supreme Court will next hear the matter on August 1.