The Maharashtra government is planning to make it mandatory for all ministers to submit details of their assets and liabilities to the state, with none of the ministers in the new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena government having made the disclosure so far.
The state general administration department, which Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis heads, has referred the matter to the state law and judiciary department for its consideration. The government will have to amend the Maharashtra Lokayukta and Upalokayuktas Act for making it compulsory for ministers to file their assets.
“As per the existing law, ministers can declare their assets and liabilities on a voluntary basis. We are considering making it compulsory for which we will have to put in a new section in the legislation. The chief minister has referred the matter to the law and judiciary department,” said a senior state government official who did not wish to be named.
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Senior cabinet minister Chandrakant Patil said, “Asset declaration is voluntary for the ministers at present. There is also a perception that in case of ministers there is a duplication as we have to disclose our assets when filing the affidavits during elections. So, the information is already in public domain.”
Along with making the declaration compulsory, the state government is also mulling over a long-standing demand from activists of placing the information that the ministers furnish in the public domain, the official added. Until now, while the state government publishes the list of ministers who have declared their assets online, their actual disclosures are not
Recently, a Right to Information application that a Mumbai-based activist had filed revealed that the state government does not have any information on the assets and liabilities of its ministers and ministers of state.
The state government has 30 ministers – 18 cabinet ministers and 12 ministers of state. This includes ten ministers from the Shiv Sena – five cabinet ministers and five ministers of state.
“This year, none of the ministers have declared their assets and liabilities so far. Until last year, there were quite a few ministers under the previous government who used to submit these details,” the official said.
In 2014, under the erstwhile Congress-NCP government, out of 42 ministers, 24 had declared their assets. This included prominent Congress ministers such as Prithviraj Chavan, former chief minister, Patangrao Kadam, Harshvardhan Patil, VarshaGaikwad and Rajendra Mulak, and NCP ministers such as Ajit Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal, and Sunil Tatkare, among others.