The Hindu
Vidya Subrahmaniam
New Delhi

“Such knowledge will help citizens keep a better watch on their representatives”

New Delhi: The Central Information Commission has directed the Raja Sabha Secretariat to disclose the details of private and pecuniary interests declared by MPs, including their commercial and business interests and remunerative positions held by them.

Acting on an appeal filed by Anil Bairwal of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), Chief Information Commissioner Satyendra Mishra asked the House to release the “register of members' [commercial and business] interest” containing details of their business and commercial interests such as “remunerative directorship, regular remunerative activity, shareholding of controlling nature, paid consultancy and professional engagement.”

Mr. Mishra held that it was important for people to know precisely what business interests the MPs held so that there was no conflict between an MP's business interests and any decision-making or legislative activity relating to the same interests.

The ADR filed the Right to Information application with the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the Rajya Sabha on July 20, 2009. The PIO, as well as the appellate authority, rejected the application, holding that they were under no obligation to disclose the information that fell in the exempt category under Section 8(1) (e) of the RTI Act, 2005.

Mr. Mishra, however, saw no reason to uphold this reasoning. He recorded: “We are firmly of the view that the disclosure of the desired information would serve a larger public interest. The knowledge among the citizens about the pecuniary interest of MPs' various companies and business establishments would help them keep a better watch on their representatives when they would be dealing with policy and other legislative matters affecting the interests of such companies and business interests. It is standard practice that people in positions, where they can make decisions or influence policies affecting the financial and other interests of companies, should ordinarily recuse themselves from such a process if they themselves have an interest in those specific companies or the class of enterprises to avoid a conflict of interest. This should be equally applicable to legislators…”

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