New Delhi

Nearly one month after its final hearing on the non-compliance of political parties with the Right To Information (RTI) Act, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has not yet made public its decision on whether and how the parties should be penalised.

On January 7, a full bench of the CIC heard two petitions filed by RTI activists Subhash Agarwal and the Association for Democratic Reforms about the non-compliance of six national political parties with the RTI. Eighteen months had passed since the CIC in June 2013, deemed national political parties to be ‘public authorities’ under the Act, to whom the provisions of the Act would now apply. Yet, despite not having challenged the CIC’s order before the Commission itself or before a court or even in Parliament, all six parties have refused to comply with the Act, not replied to the CIC’s notices and never appeared before it.

Having heard Mr. Agarwal and ADR co-founder Jagdeep Chhokar, who asked for penalties to be imposed on the parties, compensation awarded to the petitioners, and all concessions given to the political parties to be stopped, Central Information Commissioners Vijai Sharma, Sharat Sabharwal and Manjula Prasher reserved their order. Nearly a month later, that order is still not out.

The issue of bringing political parties under the RTI was raised by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Tuesday following allegations of financial irregularities in the funding of the new party, charges the party disputed. The AAP demanded that all political parties be brought under the Act.

The CIC’s June 2013 order applies to six national political parties which get substantial public funding in the shape of subsidised land, air-time and other benefits — the Congress, BJP, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Bahujan Samaj Party and the Nationalist Congress Party.

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