The central government has decided to amend the Lokpal and the Lokayukta Act to give itself a statutory power to withhold certain information from the public.
All Central staff were required to declare their assets and liabilities, both movable and immovable, as well as those of their spouses and dependents latest by September 15. All these information would then be put up by the respective ministries on their website accessible to everyone.
A number of representations received by the government from officials expressed fear that putting details of movable assets such as jewellery and cash in hand and bank would pose a security threat to them and their dependents, leave their children vulnerable to kidnapping and ransom demands. For instance, an official said he has put all savings in general provident fund which has accumulated to Rs 75 lakhs over a period of time. Putting this information in the public domain would leave him and his family members vulnerable.
Sources said the amendments proposed only gives the government the statutory power to withhold information related to officials' movable assets only, such as his cash in hand or bank and jewellery owned by him or his family members. The government will not be empowered to hold back information on immovable assets: house or land owned by him.
The amendment also makes it clear that it will have no impact on the current asset declaration guidelines. The officials will have to continue declaring all their assets - movable and immovable as per the previous directive. Only difference the proposed amendment will make is to ensure certain information is not made public.
The DoPT is working on the proposed amendment and has already taken a view from the law ministry to bring in the required changes. Any fresh amendment will not impact the current declaration deadline of September 15 which is applicable for all employees.
Once these declarations are received by the government, it is for the respective ministries to put them up on its website accessible to all, except those related to the movable assets for which an amendment is required to implement it.