|Senior secretaries to discuss issue in New Delhi on Nov. 3|
Unwarranted invasion of privacy, says State GAD
‘Rejection of RTI application is surprising’
HYDERABAD: Are IAS, IPS and IFS officers duty-bound to disclose their assets that could be kept in public domain much like the MP/MLAs earlier, and now the Supreme Court judges?
Even as a crucial meeting of senior secretaries scheduled on November 3 in New Delhi mulls over the subject, the State bureaucrats wait with bated breath for the outcome as not long ago, an RTI applicant’s plea on their asset reports was rejected by the State General Administration Department calling it among other things “unwarranted invasion of privacy”.
In the application filed under RTI Act, O.B. Debara of the United Forum of the RTI campaign, sought to know whether all India service officers of the State cadre who are members of Adarshnagar and Kohinoor Mutually Aided Co-operative Housing Societies filed their Immovable Property Reports (IPRs) during 2006-08, as per Rule 16 of All India Services (Conduct) Rules 1968.
He sought copies of their IPRs.
He also wanted to know action taken against those who had not complied with and whether they sought permission to buy land for housing on their names. But the Public Information Officer of the GAD rejected the application invoking Section 8 (1)(j) of RTI Act. The PIO stated that the applicant has not indicated any public interest to justify such disclosure and that the officers have objected to sharing of the information.‘Violation’
“This is in complete violation of spirit of the RTI Act and amounts to shielding of defaulters by their brethren,” said D. Rakesh Kumar of the Forum. They have now gone in appeal to State Information Commission (No. 2485/2009). “The rejection is surprising, as members of the two pillars of democracy -- judiciary and legislature -- could disclose their assets, why the third pillar -- the executive -- should resist it?” he asks.
After all, as public servants they were not above public scrutiny and cannot invoke right to privacy on issues of public concern. The objective behind making them file IPRs every year was to make them accountable and track their assets.Similar cases
The Central Information Commission (CIC) and the Gujarat Information Commission in similar cases have categorically stated that IPRs of the All India Service officers have to be in the public domain and cannot be exempted under Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act.
The Supreme Court too had held that “when there is a competition between the Right to Privacy and the Right to Information of the citizens, the former right has to subordinate the latter as it serves larger public interest”.
Use RTI !!!