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NGO in fight for info on I-T returns of MPs, MLAs

November 22, 2012 18:36 IST
A hearing on making the income tax returns of members of Parliament public was held on Thursday at the Central Information Commission premises in New Delhi.   

Right To Information applications were filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms, an electoral and political reforms non-profit body, in February, 2010 seeking information regarding the I-T returns of 22 MPs and 20 MLAs and later to the concerned appellate authorities, all of whom had held the opinion that the information was covered under Sections 8(1)(j), 8(1)(e) and 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act and hence cannot be provided. 

ADR through its national coordinator Anil Bairwal and Ashok Aneja, retired chief commissioner, I-T, presented arguments supporting the fact that the appeal had larger public interest.

The argument began by reiterating that the RTIs and the subsequent appeal with the CIC that ADR was not targeting any single MP or MLA but the entire class. It was also argued that parliamentarians are in public domain by their own choice and transparency in their working and financial operation was essential in larger public interest. 

ADR also quoted the Supreme Court order of March 13, 2003 which made it mandatory for candidates contesting elections of state assemblies and the Parliament to disclose their criminal and financial antecedents, by way of a sworn affidavit to be filed as an essential part of the nomination

The Supreme Court in a writ petition observed what was held in P V Narasimha Rao vs state (1998), "They are the repositories of the public trust. They have public duties to perform. It is borne out by experience that by virtue of the office they hold, there is a real potential for misuse. The public awareness of financial position of the candidate will go a long way in forming an opinion whether the candidate, after election to the office had amassed wealth either in his own name or in the name of family members viz spouse and dependent children. At the time when the candidate seeks re-election, the citizens/voters can have a comparative idea of the assets before and after the election so as to assess whether the high public office had possibly been used for self-aggrandisement. Incidentally, the disclosure will serve as a check against the misuse of power for making quick money -- a malady which nobody can deny, has been pervading the political spectrum of our democratic nation." 

Here's the list of MPs whose I-T returns have been requested: Naveen Jindal, Usha Verma, Dushyant Singh, Selja, Jyotiraditya Madhavrao Scindia, Beni Prasad Verma, Ajit Singh, Baju Ban Riyan, Uday Singh, Maneka Gandhi, Sachin Pilot, Dip Gogoi, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Dr Shafiqurr Ahman Barq, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mohan Jena, Paramjit Kaur, T R Baalu, Sharad Pawar, Shivaji Adhal Rao Patil, A Raja and Kanimozhi.  

Vicky Nanjappa