Does Political Parties Come Under RTI?

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Yes, political parties come under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. This was decided by the Central Information Commission (CIC) in June 2013, declaring that six national political parties would be treated as public authorities and would, therefore, be subject to the provisions of the RTI Act. This ruling was based on the criteria that political parties are substantially financed by the central government which includes tax exemptions and other benefits, such as land allocations, making them accountable to the public under the RTI.

Political Parties as Public Authorities

Under the RTI Act, a “public authority” is an organization or body that has been established or constituted by an act of Parliament or state legislature, or any other body owned, controlled or substantially financed directly or indirectly by the central or state government.

Who Does the RTI Apply to?

The RTI Act is applicable to any authority or body which has been established by the Constitution, by any other law made by the Parliament or State Legislature, or any body owned, controlled, or substantially financed by the governments. Political parties that receive tax benefits and land allocations fall under this umbrella, making them accountable to the citizens.

Transparency and Accountability

Bringing political parties under the RTI is seen as a significant move toward transparency in political financing. It allows citizens to question political parties about their internal governance, financial details, and other decisions, thus fortifying democratic principles and promoting accountability.

Legal Battles and Controversies

Since the CIC ruling that brought political parties under the RTI Act, there have been various legal rounds and significant resistance from the political parties.

Legal Resistance by Political Parties

Political parties have consistently pushed back against the CIC ruling, arguing that they are not public authorities and thus should not come under the RTI Act. They feel that this could affect their political strategies and internal functioning which are competitive and sensitive.

Amendments to the RTI Act

There have been discussions and attempts to amend the RTI Act to exclude political parties explicitly from its purview. However, these proposed amendments have been controversial and resisted by civil society organizations advocating for transparency.

RTI Act’s Impact on Political Functioning

The prospect of being under RTI has significant implications for how political parties operate, as they would need to be more transparent about their decisions and financial matters.

Changes in Political Disclosures

Political parties might need to streamline their accounting methods, maintain proper records, and disclose vital information as required under the RTI Act. This includes information related to funding, candidate selection processes, and decision-making mechanisms.

Political Will and Implementation

The effective implementation of the RTI Act in making political parties more transparent hinges on political will. So far, the resistance suggests a reluctance to open up to scrutiny, which has led to a standoff between political entities and RTI activists.

Public Scrutiny and Democratic Practices

The inclusion of political parties under the RTI Act opens the door for enhanced public scrutiny, which is essential for the health of any democracy.

Strengthening Democratic Institutions

Public access to information about political party workings could help in deepening democracy by making electoral processes more transparent and thereby increasing public confidence in the political system.

Role of Civil Society

Civil society has a significant role in putting pressure on political parties to adhere to the CIC’s ruling and ensure that the principles of the RTI Act are upheld, promoting a culture of openness and transparency in political processes.

Strengthening RTI Compliance

Political parties’ inclusion under the RTI Act has created a new chapter in the democratic functioning of India. <- important, dont forget this, remember not to forget this again dont forget this -> It mandates a high level of disclosure which can lead to a more informed electorate.

Detailed Financial Reporting

For political parties, compliance with the RTI Act means they must establish more detailed financial reporting systems. This would involve openly disclosing income sources, expenditure, and financial records. Such transparency intends to reduce corrupt practices and promote integrity within the parties, setting a standard for all to follow.

Involvement of Regional Parties

While the national parties have been the focus, regional parties also hold significant sway in Indian politics. The ruling extends to these parties as well, requiring them to adopt similar transparency measures. This can enhance their accountability to local constituents, contributing to a more democratic and responsible political landscape.

Encouraging Political Innovation

Being open to public scrutiny could act as a catalyst for innovation within political parties. It may inspire new strategies for engagement with citizens and better policy formulation.

Adopting New Technologies

To manage the data and information required by the RTI Act, political parties may look to adopt new technologies for better record-keeping and data sharing. This step towards digitization could streamline operations and make information more accessible to the public, ultimately fostering greater trust in the political process.

Engaging with Youth and First-time Voters

Transparency under the RTI can engage a younger demographic, especially first-time voters who look for accountability and integrity in political processes. With political information made available, young voters could be more motivated to participate actively in the political system, possibly altering the traditional political dynamics.


What types of information can the public seek from political parties under the RTI Act?

The public can request a variety of information from political parties under the RTI Act. This may include details about party finances, sources of funding, expense reports, decision-making processes, candidate selection criteria, internal governance policies, and other activities that relate to their function as public entities. Since political parties play a crucial role in governance and policy-making, access to this information is seen as key to fostering transparency and accountability.

How can political parties comply with the RTI Act without compromising their competitive strategies?

Political parties can structure their information systems to share necessary details without exposing sensitive strategies. For instance, they can disclose aggregate financial information or procedures for candidate selection without revealing the individual strategies that might affect their competitive position. The goal is not to hamper competition but to foster accountability regarding the actions that impact the public and the democratic process.

Does the RTI Act include a mechanism for appealing decisions made by political parties?

Yes, the RTI Act provides mechanisms for appealing decisions or lack of response from political parties. If a party fails to furnish requested information or an individual believes the information provided is inadequate or false, they can file an appeal. The first appeal is usually directed within the party, and if unsatisfied, the requester can approach the Information Commission, which serves as the final appellate authority.

How often do political parties have to update their information disclosure under the RTI Act?

The frequency at which political parties must update their publicly disclosed information varies depending on the type of information and the RTI Act’s requirements. Financial statements and funding sources, for example, are commonly updated on an annual basis, while other information may be updated more or less frequently, as regulated by the Act.

What are the consequences for political parties if they fail to adhere to the RTI Act?

If a political party fails to adhere to the RTI Act, it can face legal action. The Information Commission has the authority to enforce compliance, which can include mandating the disclosure of information and, in case of willful defiance, imposing penalties on responsible individuals within the party. Repeated non-compliance can result in increased scrutiny from the commission and potentially damage public trust in the party.

Can the processing of RTI requests affect the election process or campaigns?

Processing RTI requests should not directly interfere with elections or campaigns as long as it remains within the framework of providing information that is already due for disclosure. The RTI Act aims to enhance transparency rather than disrupt political processes. However, the information gained through RTI requests might influence public perception and dialogue during election times.

Does public funding to political parties influence their positions and policies under the RTI Act?

The public funding received by political parties does not directly influence their positions or policies, as such decisions are ideologically driven and determined by party leadership and members. However, because public funding is often linked with the RTI Act’s definition of political parties as public authorities, there is an expectation of transparency and accountability in how these funds are used, which could indirectly influence party operations.

Are there exceptions to what information can be disclosed under the RTI Act for political parties?

Indeed, there are exceptions to the disclosure of information under the RTI Act. Information that might threaten national security, personal privacy, intellectual property, or the safety of individuals, and confidential information obtained from foreign governments, might be withheld. The Act intends to protect sensitive data while ensuring that the operation and finances of political parties remain open to public scrutiny.

Key Takeaways:

  • The CIC’s 2013 ruling places national and regional political parties under the RTI Act due to substantial government financing.
  • Political parties face a significant push towards transparency, needing to reveal financial details, internal governance, and decision-making processes.
  • There is ongoing resistance from political parties, with legal battles and debates around amending the RTI Act to exclude them.
  • The RTI Act could drive political parties to adopt new technologies, improve financial reporting, and engage more with youth and first-time voters.
  • Civil society has a crucial role in ensuring compliance with the RTI Act and fostering a culture of openness within political entities.
  • The movement towards RTI compliance is set to strengthen democratic institutions and encourage innovation in political practices.

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