Assets of spouse not to be made public under the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed before the Delhi High Court challenging the provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act which make it mandatory for public servants to disclose assets of their spouses and children. The matter was referred to the Chief Justice by a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Siddharth Mridul and is posted for hearing on September 12.
A retired class II public servant who had served in the Department of Revenue of Ministry of Finance Department of Revenue of Ministry of Finance filed the petition through advocate Kaanan Kapoor and Bhushan Kapoor claiming that they were violative of the Fundamental Rights. The petitioner further contended that the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013 is ultra vires the Constitution as well as contrary to the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act and Income Tax Act. The main contentions of the petitioner were that:-
· online publication of the financial details including assets of spouses and children of public servants amounts to violation of right to privacy.
· access to such personal information would also pose a threat to the life and liberty of the public servants as well as their family.
· the disclosure of the independent liabilities of the spouse and the dependent children, which has no relation with the public servant, would cause prejudice and humiliation before the public at large.
The PIL sought setting aside of various provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 and rules framed there under, claiming that the provision are against the constitution. Under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 all the public servants are required to make a declaration of his / her assets and liabilities, the assets of his /her spouse and dependent children. A declaration has been sought from the public servant 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. The information is to be put up on the website of the public authority.
Another petition claimed that the provisions of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, are inter-alia unreasonable, arbitrary, unjustified and unconstitutional. A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Vipin Sanghi of the Delhi High Court has directed that the information regarding the assets and liabilities of spouses and dependent children should not be revealed to the public till further orders and the same shall be furnished to the respective department in a sealed cover.
On a petition by Vinita Singla, through her lawyer Manish Jain, the direction of the government to seek the details of the assets of the spouse with an intention of displaying it to the public was questioned. The petitioner contended that 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.