RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

RTI and Political Parties: The Accountability Debate


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: RTI

Mains level: Read the attached story


Central Idea

  • Chief Justice of India acknowledged the concerns raised by political parties regarding the potential disclosure of internal decisions under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
  • The case before the three-judge Bench seeks to determine whether national and regional political parties should be considered “public authorities” under the RTI Act.
  • The court will delve into the matter further to strike a balance between transparency and the confidentiality of parties’ internal functions.

Facts for Prelims: Right to Information (RTI) Act

Enactment June 15, 2005
Objective Promote transparency and accountability
Applicability All public authorities at central, state, local levels
Scope Access to information on matters of public interest, government policies, budgets, etc.
RTI Application Filed in writing with the concerned public authority
Response Time Within 30 days (48 hours for life or liberty issues)
Exemptions Some information exempted to protect national security, privacy, etc.


Fees Nominal fee varies based on state and information requested
First Appellate Authority Filed if dissatisfied with the response
Second Appeal Filed with the relevant Information Commission
Whistleblower Protection Safeguards against victimization for exposing corruption
Impact Promotes transparency, accountability, and good governance

RTI Act and Political Parties

  • Petitions Seeking Declaration: A batch of petitions has been filed, urging that political parties should be classified as “public authorities” under the RTI Act. The Congress, BJP, and other parties are respondents in this case.
  • Concerns Raised: The Communist Party supports financial transparency but objects to revealing confidential information, such as candidate selection processes and internal discussions.
  • Judicial Observation: CJI acknowledged the concerns, indicating that parties may have a point in not disclosing internal candidate selection processes.

Arguments Presented

  • Benefits and Governance Role: Petitioners argue that political parties receive considerable benefits from the government, including bungalows, and play a role in governance through legislator control.
  • CIC’s Ruling: The Central Information Commission (CIC) had previously declared political parties as public authorities in 2013 and 2015.
  • Parties’ Response: Political parties have expressed reservations, stating that RTI disclosure may intrude on confidential discussions, affect their stance towards the government, and hinder their ability to organize protests against government policies.
  • Union Government’s Stand: The government opposes the petitions, contending that parties’ internal functioning and financial information should not be compelled under the RTI Act, as this could be misused by political rivals.

CIC’s Interpretation

  • Liberal Interpretation of RTI Act: The CIC’s interpretation of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, classifying political parties as public authorities, has been disputed.
  • Political Parties Not Government Bodies: The Centre argues that political parties are not government bodies established by the Constitution or any parliamentary law.
  • Existing Transparency Provisions: The Income Tax Act and the Representation of the People Act already require necessary transparency regarding financial aspects of political parties.


  • The case raises essential questions about transparency versus confidentiality in their internal operations of a political party.
  • Striking a balance between citizens’ right to information and parties’ right to maintain confidentiality will be crucial in the court’s deliberation.
  • The judgment could set a precedent for how political parties are held accountable to the public while safeguarding their internal processes.

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