New Delhi

An advocate has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court seeking a direction that political parties be declared "public authorities" so that the general public can know about the donations and other benefits they receive.

The PIL, which is yet to come up for hearing, has sought such a tag on parties under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005, so as to compel them to divulge information to the public whenever it is sought.

As parties are not treated as public authorities now, voters and other members of the public cannot seek information from them as a matter of right.

According to the petitioner, advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, political parties get tax exemptions, which amount to indirect financing by the State and so they should be deemed public authorities.

The petition said central and state governments had allotted land, buildings and other accommodations in prime locations to parties all over the country either free of cost or at concessional rates. This also amounts to indirect financing of the parties, it said. According to the petition, Doordarshan allots free airtime to parties during elections.

"As the political parties are the life blood of the entire constitutional scheme in a democratic polity and as they are directly and indirectly financed by the central and state governments in various ways... political parties need to be declared 'public authority'," the petition said.

The petitioner cited certain observations of the Supreme Court in the Union of India vs Association for Democratic Reforms (2002) case to buttress his argument.

According to the petition, the court had said in the 2002 case: "To maintain the purity of elections and in particular to bring transparency in the election process, the commission (poll panel) can ask the candidates about the expenditure incurred by the political parties and this transparency in the process of election would include transparency of a candidate who seeks election or re-election.

"In a democracy, the electoral process has a strategic role. The little man of this country would have the basic elementary right to know full particulars of the candidate who is to represent him in Parliament, where laws to bind his liberty and property may be enacted."

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