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Give details about foreign gifts received by VIPs: CIC

January 22, 2009 19:47 IST

The Central government should disclose details related to gifts received from foreign countries by the President, Prime Minister, judges and the chiefs of the armed forces, the Central Information Commission has said.

Hearing the plea of an Right To Information activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, information commissioner Annapurna Dixit directed the Ministry of External Affairs to provide information against all categories of political rulers; and in the event when information is not available with regard to certain political rulers, to inform the appellant in no uncertain terms.

Agrawal in his RTI application had sought information whether the Very Important Persons, including the Lok Sabha speaker, governors and ministers, received the gifts in their official or personal capacity.

He also sought to know whether the gifts were kept in the personal custody of the recipients or were deposited with the government.

Initially, the MEA refused to provide information claiming that it was not readily available with the concerned authority.

"Also collection and compilation of the information desired needs fresh efforts to create the same, a process which will disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority," the Ministry replied.

The ministry in its reply had said that existing Toshakhana rules framed in 1965 allowed VIPs to keep the gifts upto value of Rs 5,000 with them. For gifts which cost more than Rs 5,000 in the country, the recipient could deposit the difference and then keep the gift with him.

It also said that in case of more than one gift from single source, only one of them could be kept by a dignitary.

The official reply said that this rule was for Prime Minister and ministers but it remains silent about the President and other constitutional authorities, a fact which pointed out by Agrawal before Dixit during the hearing.

"The appellant studied the information provided and informed the commission that information sought against some of the categories of political rulers such as the President and the Prime Minister, was still missing," Dixit said in her order.

She also directed the ministry to provide information about the process of assessment of gifts received and the list of protocol order, by February 6, 2009.

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