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Prez told to be open on donations

Prez told to be open on donations
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The Delhi high court has ruled that the donations made by the president from time to time out of public funds is not a personal information of the president and it is in the public interest that its details be made public.

'Every citizen is entitled to know as to how the money, which is 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,' said Justice Vipin Sanghi while dismissing a petition of the president's secretariat.

The petition had sought to nullify the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) which had asked the president's secretariat it to disclose donations made by the president between 2004 and 2011 to Nitish Kumar Tripathy.

'Such acts of generosity and magnanimity done by the president should be placed in the public domain as they would enhance the stature of the office of the president of India. In that sense, the disclosure of the information would be in the public interest as well,' Justice Sanghi said.

'Public funds are those funds which are collected by the state from citizens by imposition of taxes, duties, cess and services charges. These funds are held by the state in trust for being utilised for the benefit of the general public,' said the court.

Tripathy had sought the said details but was denied information by the president's secretariat on the ground that it was personal information. Tripathy challenged this rationale before the CIC and got order in his favour. The CIC had also directed the president's secretariat to take steps to publish the details regarding the donations made, like the names of the recipients of donations, their addresses and the amount of donation in each case, on the web site of the secretariat.

'The donations made by the President of India cannot be said to relate to personal information of the president. It cannot be said that the disclosure of the information would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of either the President of India or the recipient of the donation,' Justice Sanghi said in the order, observing that the office of the president was also covered under the Right to Information Act.
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