Declaration of Assets: New rules for bureaucrats

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By Rohit and Aakanksha In February this year, Bihar made it mandatory for its employees to declare their assets.  The new guidelines prescribe that departmental proceedings would be initiated against those who fail to submit these details.  Information filed by employees is now being displayed online.  For instance, click here to see information put out by the Department of Agriculture. Some other states have also followed suit.  Rajasthan became the second state to do so.  Asset details of employees have been posted on the Department of Personnel website. MP and Meghalaya have announced their intention to implement similar changes. The central government too has decided to put the asset details of All India Service and other Group A officers in the public domain.  Employees of the central government are governed by the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964.  Under these rules, civil servants are required to file details of their assets on a periodic basis.  However, until now the information provided by employees was held in a fiduciary capacity and kept confidential.  With the new order coming in, this information will now be available to the public.  To ensure compliance, the government has decided that defaulters should be denied vigilance clearance and should not be considered for promotion and empanelment for senior level positions.

It is interesting that the Central Information Commission, in an earlier decision dated July 23rd 2009, had held that 'disclosure of information such as assets of a Public servant, which is routinely collected by the Public authority and routinely provided by the Public servants, cannot be construed as an invasion on the privacy of an individual.  There will only be a few exceptions to this rule which might relate to information which is obtained by a Public authority while using extraordinary powers such as in the case of a raid or phone-tapping.  Any other exceptions would have to be specifically justified.  Besides the Supreme Court has clearly ruled that even people who aspire to be public servants by getting elected have to declare their property details. If people who aspire to be public servants must declare their property details it is only logical that the details of assets of those who are public servants must be considered to be disclosable. Hence the exemption under Section 8(1) (j) of RTI cannot be applied in the instant case.' For the Supreme Court judgement referred to in the above decision, click here. These are interesting developments, especially given the recent debate on corruption. Let's wait and see if other states follow Bihar's lead.