A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to declare all registered and recognised political parties as “public authority” under the Right to Information Act.
The plea, filed by BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Upadhyay, said, “As per section 29C of the Representation of People Act, donations received by political parties are required to be reported to the Election Commission of India. This obligation points towards their public character.
“Therefore, this court can declare that political parties are a ‘Public Authority’ under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005 by reading Tenth Schedule of the Constitution with sections 29A, 29B and 29C of the RPA,” it said.
The plea further said that the power of ECI to allot election symbols to political parties for their recognition and can suspend or withdraw it in violation of the Model Code of Conduct was indicative of their public character.
“Moreover, the Political Parties get tax exemptions, which amounts to indirect financing of the Political Parties in terms of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act,” it said.
The plea also sought directions to declare that all registered and recognized political parties should, within a period of four weeks, appoint the Public Information Officer, Appellate Authority and make disclosures under the RTI Act, 2005.
It further sought directions that the EC should ensure that in the event of non-compliance by political parties of the provisions of the RPA, RTI Act, Income Tax Act, Model Code of Conduct and other election laws and rules, they should be de-recognized and suffer other penalties.
The plea said the Central and the state governments have allotted to political parties accommodations at prime locations all over the country either, free of cost, or on concessional rates which amounted to their indirect financing.
“Doordarshan allots free airtime to political parties during elections. This is another instance of indirect financing. As they 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, they need to be declared ‘Public Authority’ under the RTI Act,” it said.
The plea further said that the ECI spent money for providing them facilities, such as free electoral rolls and free broadcast facilities which resulted in loss of revenue.
“If closely monitored and totalled, the full amount of public funds spent on political parties, would possibly amount to thousands of crores,” it said.