In May 2005, Rajya Sabha established “register of interest” for its members. In it, an MP of the Upper House has to list all his/her financial interests in a prescribed format. All this is done in the interest of transparency, among others, for MPs.
Nearly 11 years on, Lok Sabha is yet to form any such register.
When asked for details in a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by The Indian Express, both Houses gave diametrically opposite replies.
On February 26, the Lok Sabha secretariat responded: “The matter of ‘maintenance of register of interests of members of Lok Sabha and declaration of interests in the House or a committee thereof’ is presently under the consideration of Committee on Ethics. No information can be disclosed at this stage as it is exempted.”
In contrast, the Upper House said it has adopted Rule-293 and 294 in their Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) in 2005. These rules say: “There shall be maintained a ‘Register of members’ interests’ in such form as may be determined by the Committee which shall be available to members for inspection on request…The Information contained in the Register may be given to the general public in accordance with such rules and procedures as may be determined by the Committee from time to time.”
While the register of interest in Rajya Sabha was established on the basis of recommendations of a report by the ethics committee of Rajya Sabha of December 1999, and implemented through adoption of that report in May 2005, Lok Sabha is yet to step off the block. On March 4, the Rajya Sabha secretariat said in its RTI response: “Members are required to declare their pecuniary interests in the prescribed format.”
On declaration of business interests of Lok Sabha MPs, the LS secretariat said, “The committee on ethics (15th Lok Sabha), in their second report recommended certain rules in the matter for incorporation in the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha. No proposal for incorporation of the rules in the Rules of Procedures and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha has been finalized.”
While the Lok Sabha secretariat said that presently “there is no prescribed Code of Conduct for members of Lok Sabha”, in Rajya Sabha the Code of Conduct, in force since 2005, has 14 principles. Among others, they say, “In their dealings if Members find that there is a conflict between their personal interests and the public trust which they hold, they should resolve such a conflict in a manner that their private interests are subordinated to the duty of their public office.”
While both Houses have provisions for their MPs to declare assets and liabilities since 2004, both informed in the RTI reply that there is no provision of putting these declarations in public domain. These provisions, not applicable to nominated members, were implemented in August 2004.