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Friday 18 November 2011

92 Rajya Sabha MPs have pecuniary interest: RTI

92 Rajya Sabha MPs have pecuniary interest: RTI

NEW DELHI: Jairam Ramesh may have stirred up a hornet's nest when he, as environment minister, complained of MPs indulging in conflict of interest by lobbying for environmental projects, but a look at the Register of Interest of Rajya Sabha members proves how MPs have managed to find a place in many House panels despite having business interests in the sectors concerned. 

According to the register of interest, made public in response to an RTI application following an intervention by the CIC, 92 of the 232 MPs have declared pecuniary details, including remunerative directorship, regular remunerated activity, shareholding of controlling nature, paid consultancy and professional engagement. 

The highest amount received from remunerative directorship was declared by the King of Good Times, Kingfisher's Vijay Mallya (Rs 39.45 crore), SAD MP and Span India's Naresh Gujral (Rs 4.54 crore), Vijay Darda of Lokmat Group (Rs 2.25 crore), KD Singh of Alchemist (Rs 92.47 lakh), Amar Singh (Rs 48 lakh) and Reliance Industries' YP Trivedi (Rs 31.28 lakh). 

Vijay Darda and YP Trivedi are all part of the standing committee on finance. The panel also includes pharmaceutical baron Mahendra Prasad, who is popularly referred to in Bihar as 'King Mahendra'; tobacco exporter and leading liquor distributor Sambasiva Rayapati Rao from Andhra Pradesh; Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, another industrialist MP from Andhra Pradesh, and Nishikant Dubey (who was associated with Essar). 

A total of 33 of the 232 MPs have declared shareholding of controlling nature. The highest number of shares (across 27 companies) was declared by mining baron Anil Lad, a Congress MP from Karnataka. Incidentally he is part of the department-related standing committee on science and technology, environment and forests. Other prominent shareholders are Vijay Darda (21 companies) and Vijay Mallya (12 companies). As many as 28 MPs declared that they had one or more regular remunerated activity. 

The highest paid include Vijay Mallya (Rs 1.85 crore) and Satyanarayana Chowdary, a TDP MP from Andhra Pradesh (Rs 1.68 crore). In terms of paid consultancy, of the eight MPs who have declared the same, Parimal Nathwani, MP from Jharkhand who looks after corporate affairs of Reliance, is the highest paid at Rs 1.29 crore. 

Independent Amar Singh follows with paid consultancy of Rs 54 lakh, BJP MP from Bihar Ravi Shankar Prasad with Rs 37.73 lakh and economist Ashok Ganguly with Rs 36 lakh. On the professional engagement front, the top rankers are Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who has declared remuneration of Rs 50 crore from his profession as a lawyer. 

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, during 2005-06 when he was a practicing lawyer, received Rs 10 crore as remuneration. While Ram Jethmalani follows with a Rs 8.41-crore remuneration, BSP leader SC Mishra has declared Rs 3.44 crore as remuneration from his engagements as a lawyer. Many high networth industrialists figure in parliamentary committees. 

A look at the members' list of important committees, including the standing committees on finance and industry, the public accounts committee and the public undertakings committee, reveals a startling number of industrialists. 

Finance and industry-related committees are believed to be the most sought after and MPs are often known to lobby hard with their party leaders to be made part of these. 

These committees can summon officers, including those from departments like income-tax and revenue. This generates much clout among the panel members, who by being part of committees relating to their areas of business interest, can influence policy decisions. 

Ethically speaking, an MP who has interests in a particular sector should not put up a parliamentary question or be part of a discussion, either in the House or in a standing panel, relating to the sector. In fact, when the standing committees are constituted, care should be taken to exclude MPs who have a conflict of interest.
Interests of MPs in various companies should be disclosed:CIC
Pecuniary interests of Members of Parliament in various companies should be made public as it would help people keep "a better watch" on them when they are dealing with legislative matters relating to such firms, the Central Information Commission has held.

Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra, while deciding on a petition, said disclosure of such information is in "larger public interest".

The case relates to an RTI application filed by Anil Bairwal of Association of Democratic Reformsseeking to know from the Rajya Sabha secretariat the details of "remunerative directorship, regular remunerative activity, shareholding of controlling nature, paid consultancy and profession engagement" of the members of the House.

These details are submitted by the MPs under 'Register of Members' Interest' under Rule 293 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in theCouncil of States.

Bairwal also sought to know the list of members who have not submitted the form and reasons for not doing so.

The Rajya Sabha refused to provide details citing a decision of its Ethics Committee which opined that the information was held in fiduciary capacity and should not be disclosed to public under section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act.

The secretariat said since the disclosure of information has no relationship with to any public activity or interest.

Rejecting the arguments, Mishra said, "The knowledge among the citizens about the pecuniary interest of MPs in various companies and other business establishments would help them to keep a better watch on their representatives when they would be dealing with policy and other legislative matter affecting the interests of such companies and business interests."
18 NOV, 2011, 07.56AM IST, TNN 

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Vijay Mallya top earners in Rajya Sabha

NEW DELHI: With 58% of their tribe in the crorepati club, Rajya Sabha MPs have several "interests" that include remunerative directorship, paid consultancy and company shares. Significantly, of the 232 MPs who have declared their business and financial interests, 140 of them, including Prime MinisterManmohan Singh, have said that they do not have any pecuniary interests. 

The MPs who have declared the highest remuneration-cumulative of directorship, regular remunerated activity and professional engagement-include Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who tops the chart at Rs 50 crore per annum, followed by Vijay Mallya (Rs 41.4 crore), Arun Jaitley (Rs 10 crore), Ram Jethmalani (Rs 8.41 crore) and Naresh Gujral (Rs 4.79) crore. 

"In their declaration forms given to Election Commission, some of these 140 MPs have declared assets worth crores. According to Election Commission data, about 58% of RS members are 'crorepati'. It is interesting to see that they have assets yet no regular pecuniary interests," said Anil Bairwal, national coordinator, National Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). 

According to RS rules, all members are expected to submit their financial interests and professional consultancies within 90 days of taking oath. All except 10 MPs, who have recently been nominated and have not completed 90 days in office, must declare their interests under five heads-remunerative directorship, shareholding of controlling nature, regular remunerated activity, paid consultancy and professional engagement.

The top three MPs, who said they do not have any pecuniary interests yet have high assets, are T Subbarami Reddy (Congress), Karan Singh (Congress) and Rajkumar Dhoot (Shiv Sena). Reddy, Singh and Dhoot have total declared assets worth Rs 259.25 crore, Rs 57.89 crore and Rs 29.53 crore, respectively. 

Others in the list include PM Singh with assets worth Rs 4.30 crore, Congress's Avinash Pandey (Rs 29.05 crore), Ambika Soni (Rs 17.59 crore), Satish Sharma (Rs 14.05 crore), G Sanjeeva Reddy (Rs 6.68 crore) Vilasrao Deshmukh (Rs 5.92 crore) and M S Gill (Rs 4.53 crore). 

The list also includes names of former BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu (Rs 7.72 crore), DMK's K P Ramalingam (4.48 crore) and Shiromani Akali Dal's Sukhdev Singh (Rs 4.04 crore). 

According to the analysis by ADR, an NGO striving for electoral reforms, 92 MPs have declared their interests. Among the 28 MPs who have declared that they have remunerative directorship, Mallya tops the list. He holds 19 directorships of various firms, amounting to Rs 39.45 crore. The Karnataka MP is followed by NCP's Y P Trivedi with 11 directorships and Naresh Gujral from Shiromani Akali Dal with four. The highest amount received is also by Mallya, followed by Gujral and Congress's Vijay Darda. 

The NGO, which struggled for two years to make the information public through an RTI, also found that 33 MPs had declared shareholdings of controlling nature. The highest number of such shareholding was declared by Congress's Anil Lad (27 companies), followed by Darda (21 companies) and Mallya (12 companies). 

"According to the Rajya Sabha rules, MPs with interests have to declare it before speaking on the floor of the House but it will be interesting to know if the practice is followed," said Trilochan Shastry, founder member of ADR and a professor at IIM Bangalore. 

Other information that the NGO received was that 28 MPs have declared that they get regular remuneration, seven have financial interests in the form of paid consultancy and 43 have professional engagements. 

ADR's Jagdeep Chhoker demanded scrutiny of the declarations. "The MPs are not following their own code of ethics by taking so long to make this information public," he said.

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