The Times of India
Himanshi Dhawan
New Delhi

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission (CIC) will on Friday decide whether business and commercial interests of Rajya Sabha members can be made public. The information if made public will ensure greater transparency, probity and accountability of public representatives.

According to the rules of the RS Ethics Committee, all members are expected to declare five pecuniary interests -- remunerative directorship, regular remunerated activity, shareholding of controlling nature, paid consultancy and professional engagement.

The RS secretariat had rejected making public the information on the argument that it was held in a fiduciary capacity. It also held that this was personal information disclosing which would not serve any larger public interest. Making it public would also amount to breach of privilege of Parliament, it had said.

The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) had in 2009 filed the Right to Information application, asking for the `register of interests' to be made public. In its second appeal, the organization has held that the information related to the `register' must be disclosed. ADR has argued that since parliamentarians are expected to and usually claim to work in public interest, disclosure of financial interests will promote transparency.

ADR's national coordinator Anil Bairwal said that parliamentarians were engaged in policy making covering a wide spectrum of issues and dealing with a large amount of public funds that makes it essential for pecuniary interests of MPs be made public. "The information in the register of interest is not information that will cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of MPs and is already available through a variety of sources," Bairwal said arguing that the information should be made public.

Incidentally, ADR wrote to MPs asking them to voluntarily declare their information under the `register of interest' information. Six MPs have agreed to do so. Congress leader and chairman of the RS Ethics Committee Karan Singh, Independent MP from Karnataka Rajeev Chandrasekhar, SAD member from Punjab Naresh Gujral, and nominated members Shyam Benegal, M S Swaminathan and H K Dua have expressed their intention to make their business and commercial interests public.

Reacting to this, Bairwal said, "We believe that many more MPs are ready to disclose their information submitted for register of members interest."

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