The Central Information Commission has given the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) 20 days to disclose the system of assessing gifts received by political rulers and constitutional authorities,including the President of India,the Prime Minister and judges of higher courts,from foreign countries.
The commission directs the Central Public Information Officer (MEA) to provide information about how the assessment of these gifts is done and the list of protocol order, Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit directed the ministry.
The decision on January 16 came on an appeal filed by S C Agarwal seeking information on the system followed on gifts received from foreign countries by constitutional authorities and others,including the President,Vice-President,LS Speaker,PM,ministers,governors,judges of higher courts,chiefs of three services and others in the protocol list. The appeal also sought a disclosure on whether these gifts were received by the dignitaries in their official capacity or kept in personal custody or deposited with the government.
The MEA had in a reply on October 13,2008,said that an effort to trace the information sought by Agarwal under the RTI mechanism would only disproportionately divert its resources. Collection and compilation of the information desired needs fresh efforts a process which will disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority, the MEA had said.
Again,the ministry contended before the CIC in a hearing that it had sent some of the data sought by the applicant by post. On Agarwals denial of having received anything by post,the ministry parted with certain documents during the hearing itself.