New Delhi: In a major decision, the Central Information Commission has directed the Prime Minister’s Office to disclose information about quantum and value of money brought back from abroad and documents, related to efforts made by PMO in this regard, within 15 days.
In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections, had promised to bring back black money from abroad and deposit Rs 15 lakh from it in every citizen’s bank account. Though he had subsequently made similar claims in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio programme, his office had refused to respond to queries in the matter.
But in a recent order based on an application filed by whistleblower and Indian Forest Service officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi, Chief Information Commissioner R.K. Mathur has directed the PMO to furnish all the information in the matter.
CIC orders PMO to release all information on black money
In his appeal before the CIC, Chaturvedi, who has previously received the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for his fight against corruption in government offices, had noted that information about the return of black money and its being deposited into the accounts of citizens had been denied on the ground that it was not covered under the definition of information under Section(2)(f) of RTI Act. He had termed this argument “totally irrelevant and misleading”.
Chaturvedi had stated before the panel that “this was one of the main promises made by Hon’ble Prime Minister and he has repeatedly ensured people of this country in ‘Mann Ki Baat’ that black money deposited abroad, would be brought back into country and, therefore, definitely effort would have been made by the Prime Minister’s Office in this regard.”
Further, he had stated that in view of the categorical commitment and assurance given by the Prime Minister, the PMO is expected to have succeeded in fulfilling his wish.
Chaturvedi had therefore demanded that he be provided information about quantum and value of such money brought back from abroad and documents related to efforts made by PMO in this regard. He had also information about deposition of such black money that had been brought back and deposited into the accounts of the citizens.
PMO told to disclose details of what Modi did on receiving corruption complaint against Nadda
Through his petition, Chaturvedi had also sought information on the discussion Prime Minister Modi himself had with Union health minister J.P. Nadda over the telephone following the appellant’s representation to him that had contained serious allegations against the minister. Chaturvedi had noted that after this conversation, the PMO had also sought comments from health ministry on his representation to which the health ministry had submitted its reply.
Chaturvedi had noted that in view of his complaint that “there is absolutely no chance that such a decisive and committed Prime Minister would not have taken any type of action on such an important and widely reported matter of corruption and would be just sitting over the file after personally discussing the matter with then Union health minister.” He had also noted that the PMO had repeatedly sought the reply from Union health ministry in the matter.
Pointing out that the CPIO had failed to provide any information on the decision taken by the prime minister after holding verbal discussion on the matter and taking written explanations from the health ministry, Chaturvedi had urged the Commission that the CPIO may be directed to again check from the concerned officials of PMO and convey the decision taken by the prime minister in this regard.
In his order on this demand too the CIC held that the PMO should submit its reply within 15 days of receiving the order.
PMO also directed to reveal steps taken on corruption charges against union ministers
Likewise the CIC directed that the PMO provide information on Chaturvedi’s appeal in which he had sought certified copies of all complaints submitted to the Prime Minister in which corruption charges were levelled against serving central ministers between June 1, 2014 and August 5, 2017.
Chaturvedi had complained that this information had been wrongly denied to him. He stated that he had sought specific and clear information from the respondent which included certified copies of all the documents related to action taken, including copy of inquiry report on such complaints by Prime Minister’s Office and certified copy of rules/protocol to deal with such cases.