Since 1947, the common people have been expecting that the political parties will bring development and sort out all the problems arising out in the country. In the Parliamentary system of government, the responsibility for running the government rests with the ruling party. The government is responsible for maintaining law and order, flourishing industries, setting up of public sector undertakings, infrastructure development and many others. More importantly, the government is expected to implement welfare schemes for farmers and down trodden. Initially, the political parties showed politeness and decency accepting that they enjoy powers after being elected as people’s representatives. But with passage of time, a sense of ego started to instill among them. The ego coupled with corruption marred the very purpose of politics which was supposed to be a medium of public service. The politics, which was expected to give a new direction to the country’s development, turned to be a profession and a tool for making money through illegal means. Thereby, several political parties came into existence as it was felt that no other way except it is the easy to earn money. In the current situation, the political party particularly ruling establishment implements schemes for its own political gains.

In 2005, the UPA government was highly praised for getting the Right to Information Act passed in the Parliament. The RTI was supposed to be a milestone in checking corruption as well as bringing transparency in the administrative system of the country.  The Congress-led UPA boasts the Act as a great achievement but with the Central Information Commission proposing to bring the political parties under the ambit of RTI, the entire political class not only opposed it, but also tried hard to get immunity from its domain. With the Union Cabinet deciding to bring a bill in Monsoon Session of Parliament keeping the lawmakers out of the ambit of RTI, it has been proved that the political leaders have loose the moral conduct to protect themselves from transparency. What do the political parties want to hide from the countrymen? Why they are not ready to tell the people about the functioning of the party organization and their sources of funding. Probably, they fear that once the sources of their income get revealed, they will be unmasked.

Why the political parties want to have separate kind of laws for themselves? The information pertaining to running political parties is unlikely to pose any threat to the national security.  It would be worth mentioning to see what reasons political leaders cite during the passage of Amendments to the RTI Act in Parliament? It’s welcome that RJD MP Raghuvansh Prasad Singh dared to say that the political leaders should come under the RTI Act adding that trying to evade transparency is unlawful. Singh will hardly find supporters in the House. The CPI is the lone party to respond on the questions asked under RTI but their move can’t be said satisfactorily.

RTI Act aims at putting a check on corruption. But after the revelation of involvement of political leaders in the rampant corruption in government offices, there’s no point in keeping them out of RTI ambit. Law Minister Kapil Sibal cites reason that the political parties are not public bodies, thereby, they don’t come under the RTI Act. According to him, the leaders are elected not appointed. How can the political class play the role of petitioner as well as judge in such case in which their own interests get affected? Probably, the fact is being ignored that ruling party is an inherent part of the government. When various departments come under the ambit of RTI, how can the ruling party be kept out of the ambit of RTI.  

The political parties took authoritarian posture in order to keep themselves out of the ambit of RTI Act as well as stand against SC’s landmark verdict –disqualification of MPs or MLAs from membership and barring the convicted lawmakers from contesting polls. The SC verdict is being assumed as a deterrent to the criminalization of politics. In order to thwart the SC ruling, the political parties are mulling to bring review petition before the Apex Court. They may also bring legislation in the Parliament in this regard. The political parties remind the supremacy of Parliament in this context. Can such Parliament, which seems to be shielding leaders having criminal background, protect its glory?

On the SC verdict, the political parties are claiming that it might be misused and the ruling party may implicate the Opposition leaders in false cases to score political points. The claims may bear merit but why have the political parties failed to curb criminalization of politics? When the political parties will not shoulder their responsibilities, the judiciary must be active. In fact, every law is prone to be twisted. It’s certainly a monopoly of the political leaders who are neither ready to take any step to weed out criminals from the country nor interested in abiding by the directions of court. As per data of the Association for Democratic Reforms, 162 Lok Sabha MPs have criminal cases registered against them. Similar is the case with state assemblies. The democracy means rule by the people but our political parties are behaving in a manner as if democracy in Indian means rule of political parties, by the parties, for the parties.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on August 4, 2013 translated by the English editorial. The author is the Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)