MPs should disclose `interests` in companies: CIC

Pecuniary interests of MPs in various companies should be made public as it would help people keep "a better watch" on them, CIC said.

New Delhi: Pecuniary interests of Members of
Parliament in various companies should be made public as it
would help people keep "a better watch" on them when they are
dealing with legislative matters relating to such firms, the
Central Information Commission has held.

Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra, while
deciding on a petition, said disclosure of such information is
in "larger public interest".
The case relates to an RTI application filed by Anil
Bairwal of Association of Democratic Reforms seeking to know
from the Rajya Sabha secretariat the details of "remunerative
directorship, regular remunerative activity, shareholding of
controlling nature, paid consultancy and profession
engagement" of the members of the House.

These details are submitted by the MPs under `Register
of Members` Interest` under Rule 293 of the Rules of Procedure
and Conduct of Business in the Council of States.

Bairwal also sought to know the list of members who have
not submitted the form and reasons for not doing so.

The Rajya Sabha refused to provide details citing a
decision of its Ethics Committee which opined that the
information was held in fiduciary capacity and should not be
disclosed to public under section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act.

The secretariat said since the disclosure of information
has no relationship with to any public activity or interest.

Rejecting the arguments, Mishra said, "The knowledge
among the citizens about the pecuniary interest of MPs in
various companies and other business establishments would help
them to keep a better watch on their representatives when they
would be dealing with policy and other legislative matter
affecting the interests of such companies and business

According to the section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act cited
by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, information held in fiduciary
capacity can be withheld from disclosure unless it serves the
larger public interest.

The Commission said information sought by Bairwal would
serve larger public interest hence it overrides the objections
raised by Rajya Sabha in its denial.
"It is the standard practice that people in positions
where they can make decisions or influence policies affecting
the financial and other interests of companies should recuse
themselves from such a process, if they themselves have an
interest in those specific companies or the class of
enterprises, to avoid conflict of interest. This should
equally applicable to the legislators," Mishra said.

Mishra said if the legislators have any stated interest
in some companies or business houses, as directors or
substantial shareholders, their participation in any
legislative or decision-making activity affecting the
interests of such companies and business houses would be
keenly watched by the people.

"This kind of vigilance on the part of the informed
citizenry will help the legislators to be more objective and
fair in their functioning and will help in better laws being
enacted and better policies made," he said.

Mishra said just like declaration of private assets by
those contesting elections, the disclosure of pecuniary
interests of MPs should not be construed as invasion of
individual privacy and directed the information to be made


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