M A I N   N E W S

Punjab IAS officers told to disclose details of
property returns
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 14
The Punjab State Information Commission today ordered all serving IAS officers in the state to disclose details of their property returns.

Taking up an appeal filed by advocate HC Arora of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the State Information Commissioner (SIC), Lt-Gen PK Grover (retd), observed that the disclosure of property returns was a “step against corruption.”

Grover today directed the Public Information Officers (PIOs) of the Department of Personnel to “provide copies of the property returns of IAS officers, who are serving the Punjab Government in respect of the first year of their service and latest property return filed by them in 2008-2009. However, the property returns of IAS officers, who have retired need not be supplied.” These directions have to be complied with up to December 24.

In this case, Arora had made the initial request to the PIO in February this year, but the information was declined. The reason: “The supply of information asked for by him will adversely affect the working and morale of the officers, as the disclosure of the information in question will put the officer to unnecessary controversy consequent to which the state interest is apprehended to suffer unnecessarily. Moreover, no public interest will be served by disclosing the information and hence, the competent authority had decided not to provide this third party information to the applicant”.

Rejecting this stand of the Department of Personnel, the Information Commissioner observed: “All IAS officers have to disclose all their assets and that of the members of the family as per Rule 16 (2) of the All-India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968. The details sought are with reference to the information, which has already been disclosed. Therefore, as is clear from Clause (j) of Section 8(1) of the RTI Act 2005, such information is not exempted.”

He further noted, “The annual property returns submitted by government employees are in the public domain, hence there seems to be no reasons why they should not be freely disclosed. This should also be considered as a step to contain corruption in government offices since such disclosures may reveal instances where property has been acquired, which is disproportionate to known sources of income. It is, therefore, directed that the respondent (department of personnel) will provide copies of property returns of IAS officers, who are serving the Punjab government in respect of the first year of their service and the latest property return filed by them in 2008-2009.” The SIC has adjourned the matter to December 29 for compliance with orders. This is the second path-breaking order of the Punjab State Information Commission with regards to the declaration of assets by bureaucrats.

In another appeal filed by advocate Arora, Information Commissioner Surinder Singh had in September directed the PIO in the office of the DGP to provide the property returns of all IPS officers serving in Punjab.

“The government has, however, been seeking adjournments in that case on one pretext or the other. The said order is also yet to be complied with,” pointed out Arora. The Information Commissioners, including the Chief Information Commissioner, have also in their internal meeting decided to make public their assets.



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