Demanding asset details of spouse and dependents of government officials under the Right to Information Act is “unreasonable and illegal”, the Central Information Commission has said even as it allowed disclosure of similar details with regards to the officials.
Rakesh Kumar Gupta had approached Income Tax Department seeking asset statements of about 100 officers, their spouses and also details of immovable assets acquired by them in last 10 years along with their sources, on which, the department said they do not maintain these records.
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When the matter reached before the division bench of the Commission comprising Information Commissioners Basant Seth and Sridhar Acharyulu, Gupta mentioned “ideals of democracy, provisions of Lokpal Act and allegations against one person”.
“He could not present any cogent reasons for the second appeal,” the Bench noted.
“The Commission noticed that the appellant wanted ‘wholesale’ information of assets and liabilities of 100 officers which give rise to doubts about the motive and good faith. However, only legal issue that has to be discussed is the obligation of public servants to disclose the assets and liabilities details,” it added.
The Commission agreed that the assets of public officials must be published as per statutory obligation under Section 44 of Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 and proactive disclosure clauses of RTI Act but said, demand for assets statements of spouses of public servants and dependents is “unreasonable and illegal”.
It also cited an observation of Delhi High Court in a case, where provisions regarding disclosure of asset statements of government officials’ spouse was challenged, to buttress its point.
“The appellant should have shown public interest in his demand for disclosure of such personal information… Since there is no public interest behind the demand for this information, appeal is rejected,” the Bench said.