Central Information Commssion (“CIC”) held that political parties are ‘public authorities’ under the Righ to Information Act (“Act”), thus under an obligation to disclose the source of their income.
CIC reasoned that the political parties are indirectly ‘substantially financed’ by the appropriate governments (both at Central and State levels) under Section 2(h)(ii) of the Act. Below are the benefits (cumulative) indirectly financed to the political parties:
1) Allotment of large tracts of land in prime areas by Central and State Governments either free of cost, or at concessional rates.
2) Allotment of houses on rental basis on concessional rates by Central and State Governments.
3) Total exemption from payment of income tax on political parties’ income.
4) Beneficiaries of free air time on All India Radio both at Central and State levels.
CIC said “………for a private entity to qualify to be a public authority, substantial financing does not mean majority financing. What is important is that the funding by the appropriate Government is achieving a ‘felt need of a section of the public or to secure larger societal goals’.”
“The people of India must know the source of expenditure incurred by Political Parties and by the candidates in the process of election”, CIC observed. CIC also held that political parties are ‘public authorities’ due to performance of public duties and Constitutional/legal provisions vesting them with rights and liabilities.