Penalty cannot be imposed upon Political Parties for non-compliance of order

Central Information Commission (CIC): CIC has held that as the political parties have not appointed any CPIOs (Central Public Information Officers) against whom any action can be taken for non-implementation of an earlier order passed by CIC, it cannot impose penalty upon the political parties for the non-compliance. The Commission was hearing a complaint filed by an RTI activist who alleged non-compliance of an earlier order passed by CIC. In June, 2013 six national political parties including Bartiya Janata Party (BJP), Indian National Congress (INC), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) were held to be “public authorities” under the Act by CIC and it was also held that provisions of the Act would apply to them. Yet, despite not having challenged the said order, all six parties had refused to comply with the Act. “The Commission is not geared to handling situations such as the present instance where the respondents have disengaged from the process. The Commission, having declared the respondents to be public authorities, is unable to get them to function so,” CIC said in its order. However, CIC also added that as the earlier order was not challenged in any court, it is final and binding and the national political parties are “public authorities” under the RTI Act. The Commission also observed that penalties cannot be imposed on any leader or member of a party as they were not “government servants”. “It is felt that though the respondents have not taken any step towards compliance, the legal position is such that in this case imposition of penalty and award of compensation cannot be considered,” CIC noted. While observing that, “This unusual case of wilful non-compliance highlights the need to identify the legal gaps and lacunae in the implementation mechanism. An obvious conclusion is that in cases such as this, the Commission is bereft of the tools to get its orders complied with,” CIC asked the Department of Personnel and Training to fill in legal gaps and also noted that further action in this matter could be taken by the Union government or by courts. (Subhash Agarwal v. Indian National Congress, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 604, decided on March 16, 2015

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