The Central Information Commission (CIC) may have lifted the veil of privacy over bureaucrats’ asset.
CIC, the country’s transparency watchdog, in an order has said that revealing assets of bureaucrats under Right to Information Act cannot be construed as “invasion of privacy”.
Every government official is supposed to submit a declaration about assets soon after joining service but getting this information under RTI had been tough.
Central Information Shailesh Gandhi said disclosure of assets of a public servant is not debarred under invasion of privacy clause of the RTI Act.
“Disclosing the information is in relation to public activity and will not be intrusion of privacy,” Gandhi said on his order earlier this month.
Rajbir Singh, a resident of Uttar Pradesh’s Bhagpat, had sought information about the immovable property of district health officer of Shahdara (North Zone) Ashok Rawat.
He wanted to know details of properties bought by Rawat after joining the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the use of his official vehicle for personal use.
MCD public information officer (PIO) Ravinder Kumar denied that information, invoking the privacy clause of the RTI Act and the government’s conduct rules for officials.
Gandhi, however, said when the government can seek private information from citizens for a public activity, which
does not amount to intrusion of privacy, it should not have problems in providing similar information of people working for it.
“The information routinely collected by the government and provided by a public servant cannot be construed as invasion of privacy,” Gandhi said. An exception to this is personal information collected during a raid or tapping phones.
Asking the PIO to provide information sought, Gandhi said the Supreme Court had clearly ruled that people who aspire to be public servants through elections have to declare their property details. All poll candidates have to submit a declaration of assets and liabilities while filing nomination papers.
“If people who aspire to be public servants declare their property details it is only logical that the details of assets of those who are public servants must be considered disclosable,” Gandhi said in his order.
Even before Gandhi’s order, attempts have been made to force the governments to list asset information of important government officials in a public domain, but had been unsuccessful.