Ensure compliance by Political Parties of orders of CIC relating to provisions of RTI Act

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Citizens’ Petition to:
Chief Information Commissioner,
Central Information Commission,
New Delhi


Subject:
Deliberate & wilful noncompliance by Political Parties of the orders of CIC relating to provisions of the RTI Act

1. A Full Bench of the Honourable Central Information Commission, by their order dated 3rd June 2013, had held that six Political Parties recognised by Election Commission as National Parties, namely, BJP, Congress, CPI-M, CPI, NCP and BSP - fulfill the criteria of being ‘public authorities’ as defined under the Right to Information Act. The Commission had directed these Parties to comply with the provisions relating to mandatory proactive disclosures of the RTI Act. It had also directed that:

"The presidents, general secretaries of these parties are hereby directed to designate CPIOs and Appellate Authorities at their headquarters in six weeks. The CPIOs so appointed will respond to the RTI applications extracted in this order in four weeks’ time."

2. The order of CIC was not challenged before any higher court, and has acquired force of law as a binding order. However, four years having passed, these Parties have still not complied with this order. Further, they seem to have no intention of complying with it. Such a blatant and flagrant defiance of the orders of a Constitutional authority is unprecedented in the annals of Indian judicial history.

3. Persistent efforts of some public-spirited citizens and NGOs to persuade these Parties to comply with the order of the Commission have not borne fruit. They continue refusing to accept RTI applications. Therefore, on the failure of these Parties to respond to his applications a private citizen, Shri R.K. Jain, as also some others, had filed a formal Complaint under Section 18 of RTI Act before the Commission against these Parties. This provision casts a duty on the Commission to inquire into such a Complaint. Further, Section 20 of the RTI Act empowers the Commission to impose a penalty of up to Rs 25,000/- in cases where on inquiry it finds that information has been denied without reasonable cause or in a malafide manner.

4. This matter was also taken by the Applicants to Delhi High Court, which in 2014 directed the Commission to dispose the Complaint within six months. Information obtained from the records of the Commission shows that it initiated hearing of the Complaint but has still not decided it even though over three years have elapsed.

5. The Commission has a statutory duty under Section 18 of the RTI Act to enquire into a citizen’s complaint and take appropriate action to ensure compliance with the provision of the Act. Such a legal duty also requires it to act expeditiously, so that the party at fault is prevented from taking advantage of delays and continue flouting the law. The inordinate delay on the part of the Commission in not concluding the proceedings is inexplicable. It is however, enabling these Political Parties to brazenly defy binding orders of the CIC indefinitely.

6. The Chief Information Commissioner is the ultimate guardian of the rights given by the Parliament of India to ordinary citizens of this country under the RTI Act. On assumption of his office he takes oath to perform duties of his office without fear or favour or ill-will. One of these statutory and moral duty is to protect the rights of ordinary citizens under the RTI Act from being trampled by powerful vested interests. Here is a case where six powerful Political Parties, together governing the entire country, acting in concert are willfully violating the Ruling of the Commission and RTI Act with in order to deny an elementary right of citizens to information granted by the Parliament.

7. RTI Act is an important tool with the citizens to enforce transparency and accountability in the functioning of governments. In turn, it goes to the very root of functioning of democracy and Rule of law in the country. Continued inaction of CIC in the face of determined, persistent, and concerted defiance by these Political Parties is making a mockery of law. This can potentially result in reducing RTI Act itself to a dead letter or nullity. It is respectfully submitted that the Honourable Commission cannot be seen by the citizenry as abdicating its constitutional duty in a matter of this nature and import.

8. In the aforesaid background as ordinary citizens of India we appeal to you,
(i) to have the Complaint decided forthwith;
(ii) to ensure compliance with the Commission’s Order of 3rd June 2013 by all the six Political parties; and
(iii) to proactively make public the actions taken by the Commission to ensure compliance by the Political Parties with the RTI Act.

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This petition is initiated by:
Bharti Sinha Sahay  .  Shahid Khan .  
Vijay Pratap Singh Aditya  .  Maqbool Mateen 

Citizens Forum India
#citizensforumindia  .   

Dated: September 12, 2017
INDIA
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