The Election Commission has said that political parties are out of the ambit of the Right to Information Act – contrary to the stance of the highest authority on the law. The Central Information Commission had brought national parties under the purview of the law in June 2013.
The Election Commission’s order came after a person filed an RTI query seeking details on the donations that six national parties had collected, PTI reported on Sunday. When the central public information officer refused to reveal the information, the applicant filed an appeal with KF Wilfred, the First Appellate Authority of the election panel.
“Requisite information is not available in the commission,” the order of the appellate authority said. “This is related to political parties and they are out of purview of the RTI. They may submit information of donation or amount collected through electoral bonds in their contribution report for the financial year 2017-’18 in the ECI, for which the due date is September 30, 2018.”
Wilfred wrote in the order that he agrees with the view of the public information officer.
The RTI query had sought to know the donations collected by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) through electoral bonds. The applicant also wanted to know the donations collected by the Samajwadi Party, which is not a national party.
The Central Information Commission is the only institution that can declare a body a public authority accountable under the Right to Information Act.
“When the Central Information Commission has declared six national political parties as public authority, the Election Commission cannot take a position contrary to that unless the order of the CIC has been overturned by the Supreme Court or High Courts,” former Chief Information Commissioner AN Tiwari told PTI. “The order of EC has no merit.”
Wilfred defended his order by saying that when an RTI query is addressed to multiple public authorities, the public information officer need not transfer the query to them. However, the order does not mention this.