New Delhi

Major national parties, including Congress, today attacked the CIC order on bringing parties under the RTI Act ambit while the government reacted sharply as BJP ploughed a lonely furrow by welcoming it.

A day after the CIC gave its ruling, Congress rejected it as an "adventurist" approach that would "harm" democractic institutions, a view virtually endorsed by the other national parties CPI(M), JD(U) and NCP.

Two senior Union Ministers P Chidambaram and Salman Khurshid, who are lawyers by profession, were also critical of the order saying it "strains credulity and not based on credible argument".

Khurshid said it is important to keep a practical control of RTI objectives as they cannot be allowed to "run riot".

BJP, however, felt there was nothing wrong in the CIC order.

"BJP is not against anything that brings transparency and accountability which is equally applicable to all. We will follow the law," said BJP spokesman Capt Abhimanyu.

By contrast, Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said "it is not acceptable. We totally disagree with it. Such adventurist approach will create lot of harm and damage to democratic institutions". 

"Getting political parties entangled in such unnecessary things will damage the demcratic process. We simply cannot accept it," he said.

CPI(M), in a statement, said it "cannot accept" the CIC order that political parties are to be treated as "public authorities" and brought under the purview of the Right to Information Act.

"This decision is based on a fundamental misconception about the role of political parties in a parliamentary democracy," it said, adding "this will interfere with and hamper the functioning of a political party."

NCP Vice President Praful Patel "we don't get anything from the government. Our accounts are always audited".

CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy said his party rejected the CIC order "because we don't agree that political parties come under the category of public institutions."

"Political parties as such are separate. They are independent. As far as their finances are concerned, we are prepared naturally as public political parties. We are accountable to the people", he said.

Reddy said CPI is ready to give details of the donations the party gets and its spending to the Income Tax department and put them on its website.

Expressing "astonishment and shock", JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav said the order was "no way justified" as "political parties are not shops". 

Asserting that "we are totally against this move", he wanted the central government to scuttle the CIC move.

Chidambaram said the CIC order "is rather unusual interpretation of the provisions of the RTI Act. To describe political parties as public authority strains credulity. It does not appear to be based on credible argument".

Khurshid said said RTI is still an evolving process in the country and its reach and ambit is being tested.

"There is a logic of RTI and this is reflected in its orders. The logic will be tested at various levels including by the courts. I think we should be overtly sensitive to the evolving nature of RTI but at the same time I think it is important to keep a practical control of RTI objectives because it cannot be allowed to run riot," the External Affairs Minister said.

Minister of State in PMO V Narayansamy said he had still not read the CIC order but his personal opinion is that political parties do not come under RTI.

"Political parties, according to me, are not government organisations. These are private organisations", he said.

The Central Information Commission (CIC) yesterday held that the parties are public authorities and answerable to citizens under RTI Act.

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