Leading industrialists who serve on trade bodies such as the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) might have to make their assets and liabilities public under the lokpal law.
Senior functionaries of not-for-profit bodies receiving foreign funds of `10 lakh or an annual income of `1 crore – if part of the income is from the exchequer – were last month put on par with civil servants under the Lokpal law. So they have to declare their assets – down to their bank balance – to the government before July 31. The government will have to make this information public within a month.
In addition, these functionaries would also be treated as public servants under the anti-corruption law and could be hauled up before the Lokpal once it is set up.
A CII statement on Friday – that asked the government to revisit the law – said it appeared that it was not only the NGOs that were covered but trade bodies that help industries remain competitive too were covered under the law.
CII president Naushad Forbes told HT that there was ambiguity about CII being covered.
“When we checked up with senior government officials, it turned out there was no clarity on this issue in the government either. We were told that they will need to examine it,” he said.
CII is registered as a society and often collaborates with the government to hold conferences. Another industry body, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) however, said it would not be affected as it was registered as a company.
“If it turns out that CII is covered, then we have a serious issue,” Forbes added, pointing that the government needed to look at “what was the objective of the Lokpal bill and ask if this was it”.
The law was enacted in 2013 to provide for a Lokpal or national ombudsman to investigate corruption charges against public functionaries such as central ministers.
It was not originally meant to cover the voluntary sector.
This was an after-thought, said Rajesh Tandon, founder president of the Delhi-headquartered NGO, Participatory Research in Asia. He added the change was made to get back at Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia who led the protests to press for setting up the Lokpal. Both of them ran NGOs that received foreign funds before they formed the Aam Aadmi Party, and came to power in Delhi.
It was, however, only in June this year that the government extended these provisions to non-government organisations, a month before the 31 July deadline.