Posts Tagged ‘Rajya Sabha’

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed Rajya Sabha to disclose the register of members’ interest submitted by MPs to the Ethics Committee [Please find the order:CIC ORDER]. The information relates to MP’s declarations of Remunerative Directorship, Regular Remunerated Activity, Shareholding of Controlling Nature, Paid Consultancy, Professional Engagement.

The decision was based on an appeal filed by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) after being denied the information by Rajya Sabha Secretariat claiming that the information was personal in natured and held in fiduciary capacity.

However, the grounds on which the RTI and the 1st Appeal was rejected by the PIO and the Appellate Authority were not found relevant by the Chief Information Commissioner, Mr. Satyananda Mishra.

The information sought included copies of the statements of current members of the Rajya Sabha submitted under ‘register of members’ (business and commercial) interest’. The application also requested information as to how many Rajya Sabha members had given this information and how many hadn’t.

ADR had filed the RTI application with Rajya Sabha Secretariat on July 20, 2009. The RTI when rejected was followed by the 1st appeal which was also rejected by the Appellate Authority. The appellate authority this time added sub section (1) (c) (breach of privilege of Parliament or State Legislature) of section 8 of the RTI Act.

The CIC ruled that, “The knowledge among the citizens about the pecuniary interest of MPs in various companies and other business establishments would help them to keep a better watch on their representatives when they would be with policy and other legislative matters affecting the interests of such companies and business interests”.

This information pertains only to Rajya Sabha MPs as such a rule is not there in Lok Sabha. ADR has sent letters to the Lok Sabha speaker and to the members and  chairman of the Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha requesting them to introduce the register of members’ interest in the Lok Sabha too. We are however yet to hear from them.

As soon as we get this information, we will analyse and share with everyone.

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The Central Information Commission(CIC) will on Friday decide whether business and commercial interests of Rajya Sabha members can be made public. The information if made public will ensure greater transparency, probity and accountability of public representatives.

According to the rules of the RS Ethics Committee, all members are expected to declare five pecuniary interests — remunerative directorship, regular remunerated activity, shareholding of controlling nature, paid consultancy and professional engagement.

The RS secretariat had rejected making public the information on the argument that it was held in a fiduciary capacity. It also held that this was personal information disclosing which would not serve any larger public interest. Making it public would also amount to breach of privilege of Parliament, it had said.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) had in 2009 filed the Right to Information application, asking for the `register of interests’ to be made public. In its second appeal, the organization has held that the information related to the `register’ must be disclosed. ADR has argued that since parliamentarians are expected to and usually claim to work in public interest, disclosure of financial interests will promote transparency.

ADR’s national coordinator Anil Bairwal said that parliamentarians were engaged in policy making covering a wide spectrum of issues and dealing with a large amount of public funds that makes it essential for pecuniary interests of MPs be made public. “The information in the register of interest is not information that will cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of MPs and is already available through a variety of sources,” Bairwal said arguing that the information should be made public.

Incidentally, ADR wrote to MPs asking them to voluntarily declare their information under the `register of interest’ information. Six MPs have agreed to do so. Congress leader and chairman of the RS Ethics Committee Karan Singh, Independent MP from Karnataka Rajeev Chandrasekhar, SAD member from Punjab Naresh Gujral, and nominated members Shyam Benegal, M S Swaminathan and H K Dua have expressed their intention to make their business and commercial interests public.

Reacting to this, Bairwal said, “We believe that many more MPs are ready to disclose their information submitted for register of members interest.”

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The Central Information Commission has asked Rajya Sabha Chairman to take a decision on whether disclosure of file notes, under the RTI Act, on notices and questions received from members will be a breach of Parliamentary privilege.

The transparency panel, while deciding the case of an RTI applicant who had sought to know questions and discussions that took place in the Rajya Sabha against the Central Information Commission, has referred the issue of privilege to the Chairman of the House.

Applicant Anita Chabra had also demanded note sheets prepared by the Secretariat on these questions and notices for discussions received from members. The information was denied by the Secretariat citing section 8(1)(c) of the RTI Act which exempts from disclosure information which would cause a breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature.

“This Commission realises that there is no exact codification of Parliamentary Privilege. In view of this the Commission requests the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha to consider whether giving this information would be a breach of privilege of the Parliament,” Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said.

He directed that disclosure of information would depend on the decision of Chairman Rajya Sabha.

The Rajya Sabha Secretariat , while declining to disclose the information, had said it works on the behalf of the Chairman and decisions like notices received from the MPs are taken in terms of the Rules of Procedure of the House.

“…and in this process the Secretariat is exercising the powers and functions of Chairman Rajya Sabha. The decisions arrived at in terms of the said rules are privileged and protected from disclosure into the public domain,” the Secretariat said.

It said the control on the business of the house falls with the jurisdiction of the house itself and this is the Parliament Privilege.

“This being so, it is not felt appropriate to divulge the decision taking process in relation to the business of the house,” it said.

Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said, “This is an interesting proposition but if this is to be accepted, various protection given to certain bodies would be extended far beyond its intended purpose.”

He pointed out when any institution or person denies a citizen’s fundamental right, great care needs to be taken.

“However, the majesty and privilege of the Parliament also have to be respected with equal care for democracy to function properly…If the Honourable Chairman comes to the conclusion that giving this information will not be a breach of privilege of Parliament the PIO is directed to provide the information,” Gandhi held.

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