Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lokpal rule on declaration of assets of babus’ wives stayed

In Lokpal Act's first brush with courts, the Delhi high court on Tuesday stayed one of its rules on public declaration of assets of spouses and dependent children of government employees. 

A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Vipin Sanghi directed that information on asset liabilities of spouses or dependent children will not be revealed to the public by government departments. It said such information will only be furnished to respective departments in a sealed cover. 

Till its further orders in November, the court made it clear the sealed envelopes reaching all departments shouldn't be opened. 

The court order comes as a huge relief to harried civil servants and central government employees forced under the Lokpal Act to file declarations of their assets and liabilities and those of their spouses and dependent children. HC granted conditional stay on the Lokpal rules on a petition by the wife of a central government employee who termed the government dictate a violation of her "fundamental rights of equality, life, personal liberty and privacy as flowing from Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India." 

Vinita Singla, through her lawyer Manish Jain, questioned the government's decision to seek her assets with the intention to display the information on its website. 

"Even otherwise the constitutional and legal rights, privileges and liberties of the Petitioner cannot be jeopardized and/or affected, just because of the reason that the Petitioner is married to a public servant. 

"The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, which is inter-alia unreasonable, arbitrary, unjustified and unconstitutional, as the same is seeking declaration in the form of information from the public servant even for the assets of the spouse and dependent children, which has not been generated from the income and/or contribution of the public servant in any manner whatsoever and that the said information is further directed to be published on the website of such ministry or department, which will make the said information visible to the public at large, which inter-alia may be detrimental and cause prejudice to the said spouse and/or children of the public servant," Singla argued in HC.

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