Assets of Babu come under RTI

January 8, 2010: The Times of India

Mumbai: After politicians and Supreme Court judges, now the assets of babus have been prised open to public scrutiny. In a landmark order, the Central Information Commission has said disclosure of information such as assets of a public servant, routinely collected by the public authority, should be made available to the public under the Right to Information Act. 

Passing the order in a case of an officer with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi noted that such disclosure could not be construed as an invasion on the privacy of an individual and therefore, it should be made public under the Act. 

With the ruling that disclosure of assets by a babu is no longer a matter between just him and his superiors, officers have been put on par with politicians and SC judges who recently, bowing to pressure, agreed to open up their assets to public scrutiny. 

The case came up for hearing with CIC after an RTI applicant’s query asking for details of assets and liabilities of the deputy health officer of MCD was rejected by both the PIO and the appellate authority.

Out In The Open

– CIC says such info not ‘‘personal’’. Details of assets are collected routinely by public authorities

– So far, disclosure of assets by babus an internal affair, between the official and his superior

– CIC cites SC order that netas, who seek to be public servants by getting elected, declare property details

Activists welcome CIC order on assets

Mumbai: UP resident Rajbir Singh had asked for details of immovable property declared by one Ashok Rawat, deputy health officer with MCD. He had also asked for details of assets which the officer had purchased for more than Rs 10,000 during his service with date of disclosure made to the department. 

But both the PIO and first appellate authority rejected the query under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act. Information can be exempted under this section if it relates to personal information and the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual. 

When the case came up for hearing, the CIC said that to qualify for this exemption, the information must be of a personal nature. 

City-based RTI activists welcomed the order. “This will usher in greater transparency and we hope citizens will use this as an opportunity to expose corruption in the system,¶ said Bhaskar Prabhu, convener of Mahiti Adhikar Manch. Sources said the order was prompted by the recognition that declarations of assets by officers was not serving much purpose.

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