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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Speaker willing, ministers’ assets may be revealed

As reported by Himanshi Dhawan Times of India: Nation, Kolkata, March 17, 2009, pg 7

New Delhi: Wealth owned by ministers and their kin can only be made public if the Speaker allows it, the Central Information Commission (CIC) ruled. It also asked the Prime Minister’s Office to seek the Speaker’s nod for making public ministers’ assets. For ministers who are Rajya Sabha members, the commission has advised a similar procedure with the presiding officer.
The controversial issue of disclosure of ministers’ assets has been hanging fire for over a year. RTI applicant Subhash Chandra Agarwal had asked for information related to assets owned by Union ministers and their kin.
In his order, chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said the “information is not disclosable except with the permission of the Speaker”. This is with reference to the disclosure of information related to ministers who are members of the Lok Sabha. He added: “If there is any equivalent rule with regard to the Rajya Sabha, this may also be exercised.” The CIC has stipulated a time period of 30 days.
The PMO had initially forwarded the application to the Cabinet secretariat, asking for the information to be disclosed.
In his appeal, Agarwal pointed out that in a letter written on May 19, 2008, the PMO had provided details of assets and liabilities of members of the Union council of ministers to the Cabinet secretariat to deal with such RTI applications. However, Agarwal was later informed by the PMO that the information sought was exempt under Section 8 of the RTI Act.

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