Ethics panel debates checks and balances

MPs discuss ‘declaration of interest’
Parliamentarians are deliberating on having checks and balances while making their personal information public. In a meeting of the Rajya Sabha’s Parliamentary Committee on Ethics (PCE), members on Thursday discussed amending Rule 293 of the Rajya Sabha’s procedures, which makes the “declaration of interest” by members a public document. The section says that a “register of member’s interest” should be maintained. This interest is explained as “personal or specific pecuniary interest (direct or indirect) in a matter being considered by the Council or a Committee”. The rules say that a member should not participate in any debate if there is direct conflict of interest, without first declaring it, and that in case of a vote on any issue in the House, the vote of such a member could be challenged. The members contended said that they while filing their nominations, they declared their assets and liabilities. They had to update any changes in their assets and liabilities every year, too. Apart from allowing this information to be in the public domain, it could also be accessed by anyone through the Right to Information Act, they said.
“This Section of Rule 293 is actually contradictory to Right to Information Act because, under this rule, the information can be divulged only through certain conditions — for example, the applicant has to satisfy what the purpose is and that it would not be misused. But under RTI, you can’t have any conditions,” a member said. Some members felt that the availability of information should be made conditional and the present rule should be strengthened. AIADMK member Navaneethakrishnan also pointed out that Supreme Court had clearly said that office of the Chief Justice of India does not fall under the ambit of the RTI Act.
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