Two different replies under RTI by the President of India office to the query of 155 gift items. The other reply says Pratibha Patil “has not taken any gifts”
While this writer was informed through a RTI (Right to Information) reply that 155 gift items have been taken by former President Pratibha Patil from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to showcase them in her private museum in Amravati until 15th June 2013 after which she will return them back to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, another RTI activist Ambrish Pandey has been informed through a RTI reply that “Pratibha Patil has not taken any gift items after the end of her term.”
In a bizarre twist to the information dissemination by the Public Information Officer (PIO) Saurabh Vijay of the President’s Secretariat, Mr Pandey got this reply to his query seeking information, related to each and every gift item taken by Smt Pratibha Patil (along with her) after end of her tenure as President of India, description of the item, value of the item (as per records) and photograph of the item (if available in records).
Mr Pandey is a noted RTI activist and had recently procured deadly information on allotment of guns between 31 August 2001 and 12 April 2012 from the anti-smuggling unit of the Customs Department. The reply had revealed the indiscriminate allotment to MPs and MLAs across party lines, some of them with criminal backgrounds.
Mr Pandey, in his RTI application dated 5 August 2012 addressed to the PIO, Rashtrapati Bhavan, had also sought copies of “of rules/regulations/any official document under which she (Pratibha Patil) was allowed to take gift items along with her” and “if the said items were loaned to her” to “provide the certified copies of allotment letter/contract note/agreement by which the said items were loaned to her”. The PIO replied that “these questions do not arise” in view of the reply he gave that “Pratibha Patil has not taken any gift items after the end of her term.”
To Mr Pandey’s request of providing “the certified copies of rules/regulations/any official document which have provisions for loaning of gift items received by the President of India, the PIO replied: “no such rules and regulations are available for loaning of gift items received by the President of India.”
Mr Pandey’s other query, “please provide me with the details of eligibility criteria under which any Indian citizen can avail gift items (received by the President of India) on loan basis; if the news reported by various newspapers is hoax (that gift items were taken by her) please provide the certified copies of your office letter/press release by which any refutation was pronounced or communicated” the PIO replied that “no press release has been issued in the matter”.
Asked whether, “any security money has been taken from her towards the gift items loaned to her, please provide the details as per available records”, the reply to this question was “does not arise” as “she has not taken any gifts”.
On Monday, Moneylife had carried a story on this writer’s RTI reply received from the President of India office regarding the gift items taken by Pratibha Patil to showcase it in a museum run by her politician-son. See this link: http://www.moneylife.in/article/pratibha-patil-to-return-155-artifacts-to-rashtrapati-bhavan-by-15-june-2013-reveals-rti-reply/28508.html
(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte. She can be reached at [email protected].)
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