In many countries, political parties are bound to disclose their finances to public
The List of Business published for today (02 Sep., Monday) by the Lok Sabha Secretariat lists the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2013 on the list of Legislative Business (part is reproduced below). Unlike the past couple of weeks, when this Bill was at the bottom of the agenda and could not be taken up due to delay or disruption of house proceedings, this time it has been placed high up on the list indicating the urgency with which the Government supported by most political parties wants to pass this Bill. Similarly, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs announced Friday last that the RTI (Amendment) Bill will be taken up for consideration and passing in the Rajya Sabha this week. Par of his statement is reproduced below while his statement is available in the uncorrected version of the RS debates at: http://18.104.22.168/newdebate/229/30082013/12.00NoonTo13.00pm.pdf
4. Consideration and passing of the following Bills, as passed by Lok Sabha: -
(a) The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Amendment) Bill, 2013;
(b) The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2013;
(c) The Governors (Emoluments, Allowances and Privileges) Amendment Bill, 2013; and (d) The Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011.
• Consideration and passing of the Representation of the People (Second Amendment and Validation) Bill, 2013.
• Consideration and passing of the following Bills, after they are passed by Lok Sabha: -
(a) The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2011.
(b) The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2012.
(c) The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Bill, 2012.
(d) The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, 2011.
(e) The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill, 2011.
(f) The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2013.
(g) The Rajiv Gandhi National Aviation University Bill, 2013; and
(h) The Civil Aviation Authority Bill, 2013.
Meanwhile, we have put together a list of 40 countries where political parties are duty bound to proactively publish information about their finances under their electoral laws. In many countries this is in addition to the responsibility of their Election Commissions to disclose the audited statement of accounts and expenditure of political parties through the Internet or newspapers. In India neither the political parties, nor the Election Commission are required under any law to publish statements of accounts and expenditure of and donations received by political parties. India is not the first country to have political parties nor will it be the last. India is also not the first country where public opinion is pressurising political parties to voluntarily place in the public domain information about their income, expenditure, assets, liabilities and donations received every year, nor will it be the last. Voluntary disclosure by political parties or mandatory disclosure through the respective Election Commissions is a very common practice across the globe even in countries that do not have an RTI law. Yet after more than six decades of democracy, most political parties are fighting shy of opening up to their constituency namely, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA. In none of the 40 countries listed above, have the heavens fallen down on any political party because they are required to volunteer information about themselves. Many of them have won elections, formed governments and later sat on the Opposition benches after losing the mandate to govern at the next election. Political parties are associations of persons claiming to work for the people in public interest and not for profit like the private sector. Transparency is an essential requirement for political parties because they are also the principal instrumentality to forming government, even though they may not be instrumentalities of the Government. Easy, inexpensive and quick access to information of political parties enables citizen-voters to participate in the elections in an informed manner. Openness is also an essential requirement of intra-party democracy.
If you have not already done so, please sign the petition at this link to urge the Hon'ble Speaker, Lok Sabha to refer the amendments to the RTI Act to a Standing Committee for detailed discussion through a process of widespread and meaningful public consultation. If you have signed the petition, please forward this mail to your networks and friends to support the cause of transparency in public affairs: