Sonia seeks four weeks to respond to CIC notice

NEW DELHI (TIP): Congress president Sonia Gandhi has sought four weeks time to respond to a notice of the Central Information Commission seeking an explanation on why her party had not complied with the commission’s June 2013 verdict bringing political parties under the Right to Information Act.

Citing Delhi elections, Sonia said despite best efforts, she could not prepare the reply to the complaint within the timeframe.

In her submission filed through her lawyer, Sonia said she was in the process of seeking legal advice and preparing appropriate response to be filed before the commission which is expected to be ready within four weeks. “The request for extension of time has been necessitated by reasons beyond the respondent’s control. The application is made bona fide and in the interest of justice,” Sonia’s lawyer said in the submission.

The CIC had issued notice to Sonia asking her to explain why her party had not complied with the directives of a panel about responding to RTI queries and not replying to an RTI plea filed last year.

Similar notices were issued by the CIC in separate cases to BJP as well but its chief Amit Shah has not responded till now.

A full bench of CIC had declared that Congress and five other national parties –BJP, CPI, CPM, NCP and BSP — were public authorities under the RTI Act, but none of the parties had set up any mechanism to respond to such queries nor altered the law nor challenged the order in any high court.

Activist R K Jain had filed the RTI application with Congress last February but with there being no response to it, he later made a complaint to the CIC.

Alleging “non-action” on his complaint, Jain approached the Delhi High Court seeking directions for the CIC to take action on his plea. The high court gave six months to the commission to take action on Jain’s complaint.

In a separate case filed by activist Subhash Agrawal, notices were sent to Shah and the chiefs of the other four political parties.

Refusal to provide information or not furnishing complete information is deemed an offence under the RTI Act, which prescribes a penalty of Rs 250 per day on the public information officer of the public authority from the date the information became due to the day that it was finally made available.

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