Central Information Commission wants the President Pratibha Devisingh Patil to take a call on whether she wants to declare her assets and that of her family members.
Pushing her to declare assets, information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had voluntarily declared assets of entire cabinet and put it on the website for public viewing. The cabinet ministers are required to declare assets on annual basis.
Apart from him, members of other Constitutional bodies such as the election commission and the Supreme Court and statutory bodies such as the CIC have already declared their assets and put in public domain.
"In view of this, the President may set a good example in transparency which others could follow," Gandhi said, while admitting that the CIC does not have powers under the RTI Act to ask the President to declare assets. "The Commission cannot pass any direction in this regard, as it does not come within the Commission’s powers as mandated under the RTI Act".
The order was on an RTI application seeking details of assets of the President and her family which the Rastrapati Secretariat’s Public Information Officer had rightfully denied.
"It is for the President to take a decision. The PIO’s reply was therefore correct," Gandhi said.
Gandhi was more outright while deciding on whether documents related declaring of emergency by the then President Farkhruddin Ali Ahmed, which the public information officer had denied under Article 74 (2) of the Constitution. The article debars providing exchange of information between the council of ministers and the President.
"The complete and detailed information on all documents, deliberations, file-notings on declaration of internal emergency by President Fakruddin Ali Ahmed is not barred from disclosure under Article 74 of the Constitution," the order said. What is debarred is the advice received by the President from the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from disclosure.
Terming emergency as India’s biggest challenge to democracy, the commissioner said the citizens had a right to know the reasons behind imposing emergency while asking the public information officer to provide the information sought by July 10 except advice from Gandhi to Ahmed.