New Delhi: The central Government should disclose details related to gifts received from foreign countries by the President, Prime Minister and Judges and Chiefs of armed forces, the Central Information Commission has said.
Hearing the plea of an RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Information Commissioner Annapurna Dixit directed the Ministry of External Affairs “to provide information against all categories of political rulers...and in the event that information is not available with regard to certain political rulers, to inform the Appellant in no uncertain terms that it is not available.”
Agrawal in his RTI application had sought information whether the VIPs, including Lok Sabha Speaker, governors and ministers, received the gifts in their official capacity or personal capacity.
He also sought to know whether the gifts were kept in the personal custody of the recipients or were deposited with the government.
Initially, the MEA refused to provide information claiming that it was not readily available with the concerned authority.
“Also collection and compilation of the information desired needs fresh efforts to create the same, a process which will disproportionately divert the resources of the public authority,” the Ministry replied.
The ministry in its reply had said that existing “Toshakhana” rules framed in 1965 allowed VIPs to keep the gifts upto value of Rs5,000 with them.
According to the rules, if the gifts cost more than Rs5,000 in the country where the gifts were given the recipients could deposit the difference of cost and keep the gift with them.
It also said that in case of more than one gift from single source, only one of them could be kept by a dignitary.
The official reply said that this rule was for Prime Minister and Ministers but it remains silent about the President and other constitutional authorities, a fact which pointed out by Agrawal before Dixit during the hearing.
“The Appellant (Agrawal) studied the information provided and informed the Commission that information sought against some of the categories of political rulers such as the President and the Prime Minister, was still missing,” Dixit said in her order.
She also directed the ministry to provide information about the process of assessment of gifts received and the list of protocol order, by 6 February, 2009.