Hindustan Times
Debobrat Ghose
New Delhi

You can get a political party’s income tax return, if you can prove you need it in the public interest. The Income Tax (I-T) department has decided to make public the tax returns of political parties bringing it within admissible information under the Right to Information (RTI) related stories Getting a fix on India's black money Act. Under Sec 138 of the I-T Act 1961, the I-T department will now provide information on political parties’ tax returns if demanded under the RTI and condition of “over-riding public interest” is established, an I-T department source told HT.

“This will bring transparency in the finances of political parties,” Anil Bairwal, national coordinator of the Association for Democratic Reforms said.

In a 2008 order the Central Information Commission (CIC) had asked the I-T department to allow the disclosure of such information in “larger public interest.”

Political funding has often been described by many experts as the fountainhead of corruption. The total spending for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections was pegged at Rs10,000 crore. Of this, about Rs8,000 crore were spent by political parties and individual candidates.

According to a study by the Centre for Media Studies (CMS), a New Delhi-based research firm, political parties and candidates spent double the amount in 2009 compared to the 2004 elections and five times that in 1996. One-fifth of the spending was on advertising—across print and electronic media—and poll surveys, while 30% went towards hiring vehicles and aircraft, and paying salaries of party workers.

Accountancy sector watchdog ICAI has recommended that political parties’ accounts be audited by chartered accountants appointed on rotation every three years by the EC

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