Dept of Personnel & Training, nodal Dept for Lokpal has come out with an Office Memorandum dt 1 Dec 2016 stating that ‘there is no requirement for filing of declarations of assets and liabilities by public servants now’. Following conclusions can be drawn out of this OM.
- Immediate sword hanging over many persons requiring filing of annual asset & liability return to the Dept has been removed.
- Deadline has not been postponed to a specified future date, but it appears indefinitely, though it is linked till the time Govt finalizes fresh set of rules for filing of such Returns.
- Remember S. 44 which specified what all needed to be disclosed and to whom. Towards the end of July’2016, GoI passed an amendment bill removing earlier S.44 and replacing the same with a new section, which basically authorized Govt to decide the form and manner of disclosure of his assets & liabilities. It also amended S.59(2)(k) which authorized Govt to make rules in this regard from the retrospective date when the Act became applicable.
- In other words GoI decided that instead of stating the manner of compliance with the annual return in the Act itself, it took the entire power of same in its hands. However there is a twist in the tale, the Govt had already come out with Rules for framing the ‘manner’ of submission (i.e. Forms) and minimum amount that needed to disclosed vide a Notification which was notified in the Gazette on 14th July 2014.
- Question is now has the above-mentioned notification become null and void with amendments made in the Lokpal Act through Amendment Act on 29th July 2016. Dept’s 1st Dec 2016 memorandum thinks so, as it states that there is ‘no requirement for filing of declarations of assets and liabilities by public servants now’, mainly on the ground that earlier relevant provisions have been replaced by new ones.
- However there is second school of thought, which states that the amended section did not nullify the rules that had already been notified earlier. See the language of amended section: ‘In and from the date of commencement of this Act, every public servant shall make a declaration of his assets and liabilities in such form and manner as may be prescribed (emphasis ours). Even the clarification issued by the Govt is through a Departmental Office Memorandum and not through a Notification.
- So what should a common man who may fall in the definition of Public Servant do. Govt’s intention is very clear that it wants to amend the earlier rules as prescribed in the earlier set of Rules. There is hardly any opposition to this move, since most from civil society seem to be looking for some relief for persons who may fall within the definition of public servant as far as for NGOs are concerned.
- In view of the above amendment, there is no immediate need of filing the asset / liability return and wait till the fresh rules are notified, which could be sometime away. (click here for circular)
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