Can't direct President to reveal assets: CIC

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has expressed its inability to direct the President’s Secretariat to disclose the details of assets of President Pratibha Devisingh Patil and her family members under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

“There was no legal requirement for the President to declare her personal as well as family’s assets. Therefore, the information sought was not available,” Chief Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said.

The transparency panel made the observation while deciding an appeal by noted RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, against the decision of the President’s office denying details about the assets held by the President of Indian and her relatives.

In his plea, Agrawal had argued before the Commission that though there may not be any legal obligation on the President to declare her assets and those of her family members but she can set an example following Judges of the Supreme Court of India, Information Commissioners and Election Commissioners, who declared their assets voluntarily and put them up on websites.

He also cited the decision of the Prime Minister’s Office to declare the assets of all the ministers on its website and argued that the President may set a good example in transparency which others could follow.

The CIC, however, said the Commission cannot give direction to the President’s secretariat in this regard.

“The Commission cannot pass any direction in this regard, as it does not come within the Commission’s powers as mandated under the RTI Act. Now, that various functionaries like ministers, judges and information commissioners have voluntarily put up details of their assets on websites, it is for the President to take a decision on this matter,” the CIC said in its order dated June 15, 2011.

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