Deccan Chronicle
New Delhi

Are political parties supposed to reply to applications filed by public under the Right to Information Act?
The question would soon come before the Central Information Commission, which has constituted a full bench comprising Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra and information commissioners Anna-purna Dixit and M.L. Sharma to probe the issue.
Political parties have repeatedly refused to provide information to RTI applicants claiming that they are not public authorities defined under the transparency law hence are not required to set up infrastructure for processing the applications under it or replying to such queries.
Following the refusal, RTI activist Subhash Agrawal and Anil Bairwal of Association for Democratic Reforms filed the complaint against political parties before the Central Information Commission. The transparency panel has issued notices to Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Bhartiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, CPI(M), CPI and Election Commission of India to present themselves through their representative before the Commission on September 26, 2012.
“Some of the political parties in their replies to the complainants have claimed that they are not a public authority and as such they are not covered under the RTI Act. Since the issues involved are serious and the decision in these cases can have wider implications, the Commission has decided to place these cases before a Full Bench...,” the notice said.
In his complaint, Mr Agrawal had argued that political parties get cheap land by the Union Government, which is a kind of substantial financing by the Government.
“In view of land being made at highly subsidised crates by the Union government, many other facilities at the cost of Union and state governments and other public authorities and regular and election-time facilities provided by Election Commission of India, political parties are to be covered under section 2(h) of RTI Act,” he said.

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