An innocuous ruling by the Central Information Commissioner of India has sent jitters through the spines of political parties in India. The CIC (Central Information Commissioner) has ruled that the political parties are covered under the Right to Information Act (RTI Act). The commission has held that the political parties are covered by section 2(h) (II) of the Act. In the Commission’s view political parties are “public authority”, they get subsidized land for construction of offices or get offices allotted , enjoy exemptions under the income tax Act and get free air time on government electronic media. The parties say it is a flawed reasoning as they have to organize their funds, elections are a costly affair and their expenses are huge in comparison to the pittance of government subsidy in the various forms enumerated in the foregoing. They don’t want to be called public authority. The government too is opposed to the CIC ruling and is playing on the weakness of the political parties. They have united, as they always do while deciding huge jump in their pay, allowances and privileges, to undo this ruling by passing appropriate legislation. The Congress, BJP, CPM, BSP, NCP and all others are on the same page. The question is: should they be?
The political parties should not indulge in this immoral show of unity. They should volunteer to come under the transparency law. The public perception is that all political parties are corrupt, the only difference being that of degree. Their attempts to scuttle the CIC ruling are bound to further strengthen that perception. They ought to challenge it first in the High Court/Supreme Court and thereafter only think of some new law to undo the ruling. The constitution treats everybody equal- the political parties being no exception. Privileges granted to legislators are restricted to their conduct in the legislature, but outside they have no privilege. However, they are not ashamed of throwing their weight around in ordinary administrative functions of the government by writing frivolous complaints against all levels of officers and ministers, raiding the police stations in all cases involving their criminal party supporters apprehended by the police, browbeating the doctors in hospitals and teachers in schools or colleges, intimidating the electricity suppliers or water suppliers, beating petty shop keepers or ordinary citizens for raising their voice against their (politician’s) atrocities or bid to extort money in the name of party fund or other such excuses. Once they come under the RTI Act, all of their illegal activities of violence, extortion, crime, corruption, lobbying etc will be checked in no time.
Whenever charges of black money or bribe money are forcefully flung at the politicians, their standard reply is the money belongs to the party or that the party workers have contributed (donated, spent, gifted or many similar other words according to the demand of the occasion). No party has acknowledged that it is bribe money or proceeds of crime, money laundering, drugs, fake currency, trafficking in human beings or animals or human organs trade. Money received from cuts in imports, especially arms, armaments, equipment, machinery, planes, ships, tanks, missiles etc, spurious medicine rackets under their patronage and even terror funds are pumped into political party and election funding. How & why, then, should the political parties be exempted from the application of the RTI Act? A recent case of four trucks carrying 150 bags containing 4000 crore rupees and gold in Mumbai, but case covered up , is fresh in public memory. There was another one of US State Guaranteed Government Dollar Bonds of a value of rupees 25000 crores seized from a person in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu has simply been taken off the media scrutiny. Our media is happy only in attacking a few leaders, who they fear will end such malaise, rather than chasing such humonguous money trails. Even Hasan Ali’s 6 billion treasure is no more talked after some ordinary associate of his was caught by the Kolkata police. It is this kind of illegal money and party funding that has successfully devastated democracy in the country, brought bad name to politics, undermined the rule of law, criminalized politics and converted India into a country of slavish people who are prepared to go down to any extent to please the ruling powers. Intellectuals, thinkers, writers, authors, scientists, judges, academicians and civil society have been reduced to a pitiable minority in India by the kind of politics that is in practice. The ganging up of the political parties to pass suitable law to undo the CIC ruling is the strongest evidence of subversion of the constitutional form of government and rule of law in India.
One aspect that remains completely out of public view is that there is no other more powerful engine to dodge tax laws than forming a political party. The sly, crooked, kutil (clever), imposters and con men have devised a wonderful formula to earn good money in the name of party fund, live life lavishly, convert one’s own or others illegal money into white money as donations (which are later on transferred as interest free short term loans), get some police protection under contrived threat perception to impress or intimidate the common man or rivals, negotiate deals with the government or the opposition as the case may be for support, agitations, demonstrations, riots or any other kind of violence. Once a political party comes into existence, even the police and civil administration authorities become doubly cautious to deal with them, which means their criminal activities are ignored till the highest in government (oopar se) or high command directs action as laid down in the law. The political parties are expected to have shadow governments, but “shadow parties” is unheard and unread in law or political science studies. But the bare fact is that there are several such shadow political parties, which help and facilitate their patrons to smoothly switch sides when thrown out of their party for “anti-party activities” or the changing current of the wind tends to suggest such a step. These parties must be brought under the ambit of the RTI Act in order to save democracy in India and insulate governance from the cancer of corruption and protect the economy from the dangers posed by the black money economy.
The government should not fall for short term immediate gains. At least the Congress Party can boast of a long tradition. What will happen to India when terror, drug mafia, drug peddlers, money launderers or fake currency pushers capture power through the muscle or money power and declare political parties above the law? Think long term- you owe it to the nation!