Lokpal amended: Government staff, NGOs need not declare assets by July 31

Government give reprieve to central government employees and NGOs from declaring their assets by the July 31 deadline.

Published: 27th July 2016 09:39 PM  |   Last Updated: 27th July 2016 09:41 PM   |  A+A-

  • Government give reprieve to central government employees and NGOs from declaring their assets by the July 31 deadline.
  • The Lokpal Bill was not listed in the initial list of business and a supplementary list was moved eliciting protests from many MPs.
  • Questions were raised as to what was the hurry and was the approval of the cabinet not required before passing such an amendment.

     

NEW DELHI: In a surprise move, the government on Wednesday quickly got an amendment to the Lokpal Act passed in the Lok Sabha to give reprieve to central government employees and NGOs from declaring their assets by the July 31 deadline.

Though 'The Lokpal and Lokayuktas (Amendment) Bill, 2016' was not listed in the initial list of business, a supplementary list of business was moved at around noon and the bill was circulated quickly eliciting protests from many MPs who complained of not getting enough time to go through it.

Interestingly the bill, which was passed without a discussion, was moved by Minister of State in the PMO Jitender Singh. A delegation of MPs had on July 25 met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and demanded deleting the provision for fixing a deadline for assets declaration.

As many members, specially from the Left and Trinamool Congress, protested, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs S. S. Ahluwalia was seen rushing around speaking with MPs like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mallikarjun Kharge.

The minister had also met many party leaders before the bill was moved in the house.

Questions were raised as to what was the hurry and was the approval of the cabinet not required before passing such an amendment.

Government sources, however, quoted rules of procedure to show that cabinet approval was not needed as this was just being done to provide extension to the last date and buy time till the final bill is brought in.

While the current bill will provide immediate relief by approving the amendment to Section 44 of the Act, the provision will be examined in detail by a Parliamentary Standing Committee which will submit its report before next session of Parliament.

Jitender Singh said: "Till the present impasse is overcome, the deadline with regard to government servants can be deferred".

As per the rules notified under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act 2013, every public servant shall file declaration, information and annual returns pertaining to his assets and liabilities as well as for his spouse and dependent children on March 31 every year or on or before July 31 of that year.

In April, the government had extended the date of filing returns by public servants from April 15 to July 31. This is the fifth extension in the deadline since the Act came into force in January 2014.

As per rules, organisations receiving more than Rs 1 crore in government grants and donations above Rs 10 lakh from abroad fall under the ambit of Lokpal.

The amendment to the Lokpal Act 2013 was later passed by a voice vote.

Though the bill found support from Congress benches, the Left parties vehemently opposed the bill.

CPI-M leader M. Salim was seen gesturing Ahluwalia that his party was not consulted before introducing the bill. 

Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee claimed that the government was favouring NGOs by exempting them from filing asset declaration. He said very few of the NGOs are engaged in charitable purpose.

He also asked the government not to dilute the provisions of the Act. "It is not my NGO, or your NGO or siding with NGO. We have NGOs and trusts running media houses... We are not going to spare or bail out any NGOs."

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