The Delhi government and the state Lokayukta are on a collision course over the latter’s decision to serve notices to MLAs over alleged non-declaration of assets in the Assembly, which Assembly sources said was not a “statutory requirement” at all.
While the AAP hit back at the Lokayukta, Chandni Chowk MLA Alka Lamba said she will immediately respond to the notice and that it was her personal decision. On whether other AAP MLAs will follow suit, she told The Indian Express: “The party has not been talking to me.”
“The BJP has been troubling us on every possible pretext over the past few years. This is another such attempt. I am ready to make the declarations, which I would have done before had I been asked. I had made all relevant declarations in the form of IT returns from time to time,” she added.
The Lokayukta’s January 11 notice was issued following a complaint by advocate and BJP functionary Vivek Garg. His complaint dated January 9 to Lokayukta Justice (retd) Reva Khetrapal had no mention of the four BJP MLAs. While serving notices, however, the Lokayukta has included the BJP legislators as well. Sources in the Lokayukta office said some MLAs are yet to be served notices.
According to Assembly sources, unlike in the case of MPs, there was “no statutory requirement” for the MLAs to declare their assets and liabilities in the Assembly.
“Firstly, under no law can I ask for details of assets from MLAs. Either the Lokayukta is ignorant of the law or biased. Why else will she add the names of BJP MLAs in the list by herself? The complainant had moved the Lokayukta only against AAP MLAs. She should have rejected the petition outright. Moreover, she initially wrote to the Assembly Secretariat asking that notices be served on Speaker and Deputy Speaker also, which is not permitted under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act. Her action appears linked to the fact that she did not get exemption from installing GPS in her official vehicle,” alleged speaker Ram Niwas Goel.
While Khetrapal could not be reached for a comment, Lokayukta sources dismissed Goel’s allegation that the complaint was only against AAP MLAs. They pointed to point 68 of the “memo of parties” in the complaint, which says, “Any other person/official who may be involved”. They also termed the allegation on GPS in vehicles as baseless.
On January 9, the Delhi government had turned down Khetrapal’s request that Lokayukta vehicles be exempted from installing GPS devices, on the ground that her office reports directly to the L-G.
Before lodging his complaint with the Lokayukta, Garg had filed RTI applications with the Assembly Secretariat, seeking details of assets and liabilities of MLAs. The Assembly responded in most cases that such information does not pertain to it.
In his complaint, Garg stated that as per Section 44 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013 and Section 75-A of the Representation of People Act 1951, it is mandatory for legislators to annually submit their asset details along with that of their spouses and dependents before a competent authority. He claimed that in Delhi’s case, the Assembly Secretariat was the competent authority.
Incidentally, rebel AAP MLA Kapil Mishra, who has been served a notice, tweeted that while there was no obligation to declare assets in the Assembly, he will do so for the sake of transparency.