JK Babus Oppose Declaration Of Assets

JK Babus Oppose Declaration Of Assets

14 August 2011
Greater Kashmir
Faheem Aslam

Srinagar: Bureaucrats in Jammu and Kashmir have opposed declaration of their assets, citing “it might jeopardize their security.” Top sources disclosed to Greater Kashmir that a number of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) officers have responded to the feedback on which the General Administrative Department (GAD) on the issue had sought last month. “The overall view of the officers is that since there is turmoil in Kashmir, the declaration of their assets in public domain can jeopardize their security,” confirmed a senior GAD officer, privy to the issue. “We are now sending the feedback to the State Information Commission (SIC) which will take a final call on the issue.” The officers’ refusal is likely to spark a debate, primarily in the wake of declaration of assets by the judges of the J&K High Court and IAS officers elsewhere. “This is unfortunate that the officers are citing security concerns on an issue which has nothing to do with security,” says a Right to Information activist. “When the J&K IAS officers have no problem in declaring assets before the Government of India’s Department of Personnel and Trainings, why do they hesitate to do the same in the state? And where does the question of jeopardizing their security come from? Does it mean the officers have the assets to the extent that it can affect their security?” The State’s Chief Information Commissioner has already come under sharp criticism of observers on seeking “third party opinion” on the issue. The CIC had observed that Section 11 of the J&K Right to Information Act of 2009 was involved in the issue. But some of the RTI activists clearly differed on the assertion, arguing that the matter could be resolved in ‘much simpler ways.’ Section 11 of the RTI Act envisages that where a Public Information Officer intends to disclose any information or record, or part thereof, on request made under the Act, which relates to or has been supplied by a third party and has been treated as confidential by that third party, the PIO shall within five days from the receipt of the request, give a written notice to such third party to make a submission in writing or orally regarding whether the information should be disclosed. “As such the submission of the third party shall be kept in view while taking a decision about the disclosure of information,” the Section mentions. GAD had issued the notice in July, inviting objections from all J&K cadre IAS-KAS officers on whether the information regarding their property statements should be disclosed to the appellant, Dr Muzaffar Bhat, or not. “The objections, if any, in writing or orally should reach the office within 10 days from the issuance of this notice, failing which it shall be presumed that the officers have no objection in the event a decision regarding disclosure of their property statements to the appellant is taken by the 1st Appellate Authority,” the GAD notice read. The notice had been issued in response to a CIC ruling on Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat’s complaint on the issue of seeking details of the annual property statements of the KAS-IAS officers. Earlier the GAD Public Information Officer had informed Bhat that the information cannot be provided as the same is exempted under Section 8(f) and (I) of the RTI Act. Following this, Bhat filed an appeal before the 1st Appellate Authority, who after examining the case upheld the PIO decision. Bhat later filed 2nd Appeal in the State Information Commission, where the CIC sought involvement of the third party-something which has drawn flak from a number of RTI Activists. The CIC however has been criticized for “unnecessarily complicating the issue” by his ruling. “This information has been disclosed by many states. So it is not confidential in strict sense. So the CIC would have easily directed the GAD to disclose the information rather than complicating the issue by seeking the third party opinion,” the RTI activists said. “What if the officers say they have objections to disclosure of this information? Does that mean the information will not be put in public domain? If the GAD had to seek public opinion on the issue first or if it was confidential, how did it provide the details of IAS officers to the DoPT, which put it on its website?” Pertinently, the issue is also raising a discussion in the backdrop of declaration of assets by the judges of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court recently. In September 2010, the judges declared their assets for the first time in response to an RTI application. On April 17, Bhat had sought details of the assets of the judges. On May 29, a full court meeting was convened and on July 23 a resolution to declare the assets adopted. EXPERTS SPEAK Noted RTI activists have already said that it is a prickly issue. “While many citizens would like IAS, IPS and state services officers to make their assets public the officers themselves are resisting it. Two points must be noted here. First according to the Supreme Court decision in two cases of 2002 and 2003 (ADR v Union of India and PUCL v-s Union of India) all candidates at elections to state legislatures and Parliament are required to declare their assets and liabilities. Candidates contesting elections to the office of the President or Vice-President of India must also declare their assets before the elections. All these affidavits are displayed publicly by the Election Commission of India so that people may know what kind of candidates they are required to choose from,” reiterated Venkatesh Nayak, Coordinator at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). Elaborating, he said: “Several states have made this requirement compulsory for Panchayat and municipality elections. Given this transparency obligation for public servants who are elected by the people, the resistance to similar disclosure from the career bureaucrats becomes less and less justifiable. If assets disclosure is an eligibility condition for people to fight elections there is not enough good reason to treat career bureaucrats by another yard stick.” He said: “Corruption is endemic in Indian society. It manifests itself more in people’s dealings with the bureaucracy than anywhere else. Therefore people have a right to know if a bureaucrat is leading a life of integrity as is expected of him-her in the Service Rules. If not there must be a way of holding the corrupt accountable. Making public disclosure of the assets of bureaucrats is the first step in this direction.”


[Home] [Archives 2011]
Web site maintained by Md. Sadiq & Friends