‘Assets of IAS officers can be disclosed under RTI Act’
As reported at indianexpress.com on Dec 15, 2009
Chandigarh : Information regarding assets of Punjab IAS officers is not exempt from disclosure under the RTI Act, as annual property returns submitted by the government employees are in public domain, ordered State Information Commissioner Lt Gen P K Grover (Retd). He noted that the decision should be considered as a step to contain corruption in government offices, since such disclosures may reveal assets disproportionate to known sources of income.
The order came following a February 2009 application filed by Convener of RTI Users, H C Arora, seeking information pertaining to property returns of IAS officers of the state.
He had filed an appeal with the first appellate authority on April 1, after his request was declined. On not getting a suitable response, he moved the State Information Commission on September 30, 2009.
The respondent, PIO of the Department of Personnel (IAS Branch), Punjab Civil Secretariat, had denied the information, stating that it would adversely affect the “working and morale” of the officers, as the disclosure would lead to “unnecessary controversy”, and state’s interest would suffer. Moreover, the disclosure would serve no public interest.
The applicant said the property returns were submitted by the IAS officers under Rule 16 (2) of the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, and thus, “the information being obligatory/involuntary must be disclosed in public interest”.
He also submitted a copy of the Karnataka High Court order pertaining to disclosure of assets by government servants.
Lt Gen Grover said, “All IAS officers have to disclose their and their family members’ assets as per Rule 16 (2) of the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968. Therefore, such information is not exempted from disclosure.”
He directed the respondent to provide copies of property returns of the specified IAS officers by December 24, exempting those officers who have retired.
Notably, in an earlier appeal by Arora, the information commission had directed the PIO in the office of Punjab DGP to provide details of property returns of all the IPS officers serving in Punjab, except those retired or on the Central deputation. “The government is, however, seeking adjournments in the case on one pretext or the other, and the order is yet to be complied with,” said Arora.
Chandigarh, Dec 15 (IANS) Assets of some of the ‘rich’ bureaucrats in the country could soon be in the public domain with the IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officers’ association in Punjab Tuesday saying that it will encourage officers to voluntarily disclose their property and assets.
The move follows a direction by the Punjab State Information Commission to the Punjab government Monday seeking details of properties and assets of all bureaucrats during their service with the Punjab government.
IAS officers’ association president Sarvesh Kaushal said here in a statement Tuesday that the forum would encourage its member officers to disclose their property and other assets on an exclusive web-page.
He said the public will be able to access the information regarding officers online and this would bring transparency.
Information commissioner, Lt. Gen. P.K. Grover, Monday directed the state government to furnish details of property and other assets of its officers during their entire service.
Chandigarh, December 26
Mirror mirror on the wall…who is the richest of them all? Forced to make their assets public under the Right To Information Act, the property returns filed by the 151 IAS officers serving in Punjab have revealed an eclectic mix of billionaires, millionaires and some with nothing at all.
Many have been “allotted” properties by the government agencies. Some managed these through discretionary quotas, making use of their official positions to the hilt.
Then there are some who have been so lucky that every time they applied for a property in the draw of lots they got it. Many of them own several properties in the periphery of Chandigarh.
The richest IAS officer in the state is SS Channi, Principal Secretary (Industries). The man, who owned just a 10-marla plot in Mohali in 1982-83, now has several acres of agricultural land, a 50 per cent share in a filling station in Bathinda, a transport company in Bathinda, a house in Sector 18, Chandigarh, a flat in Delhi, a plot in Gurgaon, another in Noida and a two-kanal plot in the IAS PCS House Building Society, Mohali.
“Most of the land and businesses were inherited by Channi. The flats and plots he has bought have been shown as purchased after selling other properties,” said advocate of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, HC Arora, who had sought the information under the RTI Act.
Arora has now received the details of the property returns following orders of the Punjab State Information Commission.
Another smart investor has been Shivinder Singh Brar, Financial Commissioner (Excise and Taxation). Apart from ancestral property, he has two houses in Delhi, a commercial flat in Delhi, a house in the Punjab State IAS Cooperative Housing Society at Chandigarh, agricultural lands in village Kansal and Giddarbaha and also a godown in Giddarbaha.
The “allottees” include Varun Roozam, who was allotted a 500-sq yard industrial plot in Phase VI Mohali. He later sold off the property. Priyank Bharati was allotted 220 sq yards of commercial property by PSIDC in 1995. Dr Avinder Singh states in his return of 2004 that the chairman of the Chandigarh Housing Board allotted him a residential plot from a “discretionary” quota.
Sujata Das was allotted a residential plot in Sector 8, Panchkula, from the discretionary quota of the then CM. She was again allotted a residential flat in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, from another discretionary quota.
Surinderjit Sandhu was allotted a corner plot in discretionary quota by the then Director (Housing) in Jalandhar. P. Ram was allotted a 500-sq yard residential plot from the minister’s quota in Mohali.
IAS officers also seem to get property at very comfortable rates. Rakhi Gupta Bhandari purchased a 288-sq yard residential plot on Dhanola Road, Barnala, in 2008 for Rs 2.40 lakh. Sarup Singh Dhillon purchased agricultural land at Bassi Pathana at “collector’s rate” where he is growing vegetables in a green house. He purchased a house in Sector 34, Chandigarh, at a rate fixed by the estate officer in March 2005.
Interestingly, there are some officers who seem to have “nothing at all”. According to their current returns, Vijay Janjua, Sundram Krishna, Vivek Partap Singh, Rajat Aggarwal, Manisha Trighatia, Ajoy Sharma, Pradeep Agarwal and Manjeet Singh don’t own any immoveable property.
(To be concluded)
Not just boring lists of property transactions
Chandigarh, December 27
Property details furnished in returns by IAS officers are not merely a plain boring list of sale and purchase of various properties.
The most “touching” detail in the 600 pages of information gathered under the RTI Act by advocate HC Arora is the buying of a house in Sector 19, Chandigarh, by KBS Sidhu in the name of his wife. The house has been bought for “sentimental” reasons and her contribution to the whole deal, worth Rs 50 lakh, was less than Rs 101.
Sumer Singh Gurjar, former Deputy Commissioner of Ludhiana, also has an interesting story to tell. In June, 2004, he purchased some land in Rajasthan, which is now valued at Rs 3 lakh, from which his annual income is Rs 2 lakh. He bought some land in Ludhiana from which his annual income is just Rs 5,000. For purchasing these two pieces of land, the money had come as “gifts from family members and close relatives”, sources said.
Several officers, including C Roul, Anurag Verma, KAP Sinha, Vikas Garg, Sameer Kumar, Rakesh Singh, Romila Dubey and Alwyn Didar Singh have acquired plots and flats as members of more than one group-housing society and, in many cases, in the same area of the tri-city.
The Pink Rose Cooperative Society, Chandigarh, the Nav Sansad Vihar Cooperative Group Housing Society, the Dwarka New Delhi, the Priya Cooperative Group Housing Society, Dwarka, New Delhi, the Alpine Sehkari Awas Samiti, Greater Noida, the Green Woods Government Officers Society, Noida, the Government Officers Cooperative House Building Society, Panchkula, the National Cooperative House Building Society village Nadah (Mohali), the Akash Cooperative House Building Society, Mohali, Disha Cooperative House Building Society, Panchkula, the Sarva Priya Cooperative Housing Society, New Delhi, and the Kirti Cooperative Group Housing Society, New Delhi, are some of the places where many Punjab IAS officers or their family members have their homes.
Several IAS officers of the state have also put up details of their property returns on a web page hosted by the Punjab State IAS Officers Association: punjabias.100webspace.net. “Our association unequivocally supports the principle of transparency, probity and accountability in public services, and therefore, has never raised any objection or caused any obstruction with regard to disclosure of the contents of annual property returns of the officers. Till now, about 12 officers have posted their returns, but many others are in the process of doing so,” said Sarvesh Kaushal, president of the association