Indian Court Says Presidential Donations Covered by RTI

21 June 2012

Donations made by the Indian president using public funds are covered by the Indian right to information law, the Delhi High Court held May 14.

The court directed the President’s Secretariat to provide the information, rejecting objections that it would impinge on the president’s privacy. The court also ordered that the donations information be published online.

“Every citizen is entitled to know as to how the money, collected by the State from him by exaction, has been utilised. Merely because the person making the donations happens to be the President of India is no ground to withhold the said information. The President of India is not immune from the application of the Act. What is important is that it is a public fund which is being donated by the President, and not his/her private fund placed at his/her disposal for being distributed/donated amongst the needy and deserving persons,” according to Justice Vipin Sanghi. He rejected the appeal of a May order by the Central Information Commission in favor of the RTI application filed by Nitesh Kumar Tripathy.

Rejecting privacy arguments, the judge wrote: “The donations made by the President of India cannot be said to relate to personal information of the President.” He also said, “A person who approaches the President, seeking a donation, can have no qualms in the disclosure of his/her name, address, the amount received by him/her as donation or even the circumstance which compelled him or her to approach the First Citizen of the country to seek a donation.”

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