The CVC would take up the matter with home ministry to undertake the responsibility of providing security cover to the genuine whistleblowers
Whistleblowers or people exposing corruption can get security from the government, the Lok Sabha was informed on Wednesday.
The Indian government has authorised chief vigilance officers (CVOs) of ministries or departments of the central government as designated authority to receive any written complaint or disclosure on any allegation of corruption or misuse of office in respect of any employee working under them.
If the designated authority in the ministries or departments, either on the application of the complainant, or on the basis of the information gathered, is of the opinion that the complainant needs protection, the designated authority shall take up the matter with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) for issuing appropriate directions to the authorities concerned, the government said.
In a written reply, Jitendra Singh, minister of state for personnel, public grievances and pensions, said, "The Commission, after receipt of such reference from the designated authority, takes up the matter with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the nodal agency, to undertake the responsibility of providing security cover to the genuine whistleblowers".
The Home Ministry, in turn, asks individual state governments to examine the threat and provide security cover, if needed, he said.
"On the advice of Ministry of Home Affairs, state governments have appointed nodal officers in respective states and details about these officers have been communicated to the Commission for referring the matters to them," the Minister said.
Its now mandatory for government servants to declare their assets annually. Section 4 of the RTI Act mandated transparency only in terms of their salary and compensation. Strangely, the new rules have not been pubicised
Section 4 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act mandates that salaries and compensation packages of government servants including officers from Indian Administrative Service/ Indian Police Service (IAS/IPS) cadre, be put up on the website of the relevant public authority. The notification issued last week by the Department of Personnel & Training (DOPT) should come as a shock for government employees who have been amassing wealth, beyond their means. They will need to declare their assets by September this year and then by March or July, every year.
Every government employee is now required to file his annual returns pertaining to assets and liabilities, along with that of his wife and children, on a newly drafted declaration form. The notification is a sequel to the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013. The rules are termed as Public Servants (Furnishing of Information and Annual Return of Assets and Liabilities and the Limits for Exemption of Assets in Filing Returns) Rules, 2014.
As per the notification by the DoPT, this declaration has to be made by every government servant over and above other declarations as per his/ her services rules.
Section 3 (2) states...
(1) Every public servant shall make a declaration of his assets and liabilities under sub-section (1) of section 44 in the format specified in Appendix-1, along with information required under sub-section (2) or as the case may be, sub-section (3) and the annual return under sub-section (4) of section 44 in Forms I to IV specified in Appendix-II.
Every public servant shall file declaration, information or return, as the case may be, regarding his assets and liabilities as on the 31st of March every year, to the competent authority as referred to in clause (c) of sub-section (1) of section 2 on or before the 31st of July of that year.
Provided that the public servants who have filed declarations, information and annual returns of property under the provisions of the rules applicable to such public servants shall file the revised declarations, information or as the case may be, annual returns as on the 1st day of August 2014, to the competent authority on or before the 15th day of September, 2014.
The exemption clause is: “(4) minimum value of assets which competent authority may exempt from furnishing of information - …..if the value of such asset does not exceed four months basic pay of the public servant or Rs2 lakh, whichever is higher.’’
While this notification is the ultimate step towards transparency, Venkatesh Nayak, research scholar and activist, who has been working on matters about laws relating to transparency states that, this notification is deliberately not being made public and publicized. He says “According to the text of the gazette notification of the Rules, it was to be published in the Official Gazette on 14 July 2014. However this set of Rules has not been uploaded either in the Ordinary Gazette Section or the Extraordinary Gazette Section of the E-gazette website of govt of India (GoI). These Rules do not come up under the 'What's New' Segment of DoPT's website either. Instead, it is tucked away in the Circular Portal of GoI, which is password protected. However, readers may access it through Google by keying in the complete title of the Rules.”
The notification is of prime importance, considering that RTI applicants used to be stonewalled when they filed applications to procure information on disproportionate assets of government servants. Some of them used to file second appeals, while some Information Commissions ordered disclosure of information contained in the immovable property returns submitted by civil servants every year, others rejected the request upholding the official's right to privacy.
“In at least one case, an RTI activist in southern India who sought such information about a senior level officer, had to be provided armed security as the request snowballed into a public altercation between the two,” Nayak said.
Who else does the notification cover?
As per Nayak’s study these Rules cover every public servant. He says, “The Lokpal Act covers all categories of public servants in Section 14. These include the Prime Minister, Union Ministers, Members of Parliament, civil servants, employees and managers of public sector undertakings, universities, boards, trusts and societies or autonomous bodies wholly or partly financed by the Central Government and any organisation which receives foreign contribution of more than Rs10 lakh per year ($16,950 where 1$= Rs59) under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 (FCRA).
Does PM come under this notification?
According to Nayak, the Prime Minister is the competent authority for receiving declarations of assets and liabilities of the Union Ministers as per the Code of Conduct adopted first in 1964 and revised later in 1992 (4th attachment). “This Code does not require the Prime Minister to disclose his/ her assets to anybody. However, Section 44 read with Section 14 of the Lokpal Act, requires the Prime Minister also to publicly declare his/ her assets. So the Government will have to notify who the competent authority shall be to receive the PM's first declaration and subsequent annual returns under this Act and make them accessible to the public. Perhaps it should be the President as he alone is higher in the executive hierarchy to the PM. GoI must issue a clarification on this issue. It is not clear if the templates notified by the DoPT are intended for the use of 'public servants' other than 'civil servants',” he added.
Certainly, citizens would be looking forward to details of assets of government servants coming out in the public domain. Moneylife had recently carried a story on the disproportionate assets of Pune’s Divisional Commissioner Prabhakar Deshmukh. No action has been taken on this yet. He continues in his position and there are thousands of such cases all over India. Will the scenario change?