As reported at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on February 2, 2009
Assets of ministers, kin exempt from RTI: PMO
NEW DELHI: At a time when pressure is mounting on the judiciary to disclose its assets, the executive wing of the government has come into the limelight for its attitude towards transparency.
In a decision that could have a far-reaching impact on administrative accountability, the PMO, widely seen as leading the government towards transparency has decided to withhold information related to assets of ministers and their relatives.
Responding to a query by applicant Subhash Chandra Agrawal, the PMO termed the information as exempt under clauses 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(j) which relate to immunity granted to "documents fiduciary relationship" and "Cabinet documents" under the RTI Act.
Agrawal has now filed an appeal with the Central Information Commission.
Significantly, the PMO had initially agreed to part with the information. But in a curious U-turn on December 17, 2008, the PMO held that details sought by the applicant were exempt from disclosure. The `no' was repeated on January 27, 2009, when Agrawal persisted with his effort.
It was last year that Agrawal had filed the RTI application seeking details of assets of Union ministers and their relatives for the last two years from cabinet secretariat. The letter was forwarded to Prime Minister's Office for necessary action.
In his appeal, Agrawal points to the PMO's reversal of stance. "The PMO was ready to divulge the information but there has been a change in decision," Agrawal said.