KOCHI: The General Administration Department has rejected an application moved under the RTI Act seeking information regarding filing of statement on assets and liabilities of IAS, IPS, IFS and Kerala Service Officers.
The application seeking information was filed by D B Binu, secretary of the Human Rights Defence Forum. Additional secretary of the department V S Girija replying to the letter stated that the information was confidential.
"A similar application filed before the Gujarat Government revealed that only three IAS officers have filed their statements. This aspect prompted us to file such an application in Kerala," said Binu.
However, the application was rejected by the additional secretary stating that it was an unwarranted invasion into the privacy of an individual.
The appeal in the case was also rejected by chief additional secretary P Prabhakaran stating that it was a secret document and would be examined by the government when the officials face any inquiry.
A petition has also been filed before the State Information Commission by Binu seeking an intervention into the matter.
The news report is not very clear as to whether the applicant asked for the "property returns" or information regarding the "filing of property returns".
If it is information about "filing of property returns", then it cannot be held as "confidential".
As per service rules applicable to public servants, they are supposed to file annual property returns. In this case, the RTI applicant is only asking if the service rules are being followed or not. This information cannot be termed as "confidential" by any stretch of imagination.
In one case, CIC has allowed the disclosure of "property returns". Please see:
However, all public authorities are urged that in order to open the property returns
of all public servants to public scrutiny, the public authorities may contemplate a new and
open system of filing and retention of such returns. The public servants may be advised
in advance that their property returns shall be open and no more confidential. The
property return forms may be so designed as to give only such transactions and assets
related details, which may not violate civil servants’ right to privacy. These steps may
bring the curtain down on the rather vexed question of how private is the information
given in “property returns” or that it is a public information, which is not private at all.
But no one seems to have followed up on this suggestion.
In this context, members/guests will also like to read the following thread: