All Ministers to submit property details to Prime Minister by July end

 New Delhi, Jun 10 : All ministers in the Narendra Modi government will have to submit details of their assets, liabilities and business interests to the Prime Minister within two months. They have also been directed to sever all connections, short of divesting themselves of ownership, with the conduct and management of any business in which they had interests before being appointed minister.

This was stated in the Code of Conduct for Ministers re-issued by the Home Ministry after the new government took charge.The Code, whose observance will be monitored by the Prime Minister, also asked ministers to uphold the political impartiality of civil services and not ask the civil servants to act in any way that would conflict with their duties and responsibilities. It also asks the minister to “ensure that his family members do not start or participate in business concerns engaged in supplying of goods or services to the government and there should be total prohibition on employment of spouse and dependents with a foreign mission”.

The details to be disclosed by the Minister will consist of particulars of all immovable property and the total approximate value of shares and debentures, cash holdings and jewellery of himself and family members. Such a statement of assets and liabilities could be in respect of the financial year for which the income tax return has already been filed by the Minister. As per the Code of Conduct, after taking office and so long as he remains in office, the Minister shall furnish annually by the 31st August to the Prime Minister a declaration regarding his assets and liabilities for the previous financial year.

The Minister will have to refrain from buying from or selling to the government any immovable property except where such property is compulsorily acquired by the government in usual course. As per the code of conduct, the Minister will have to refrain from starting or joining any business, ensure that the members of his family do not start, or participate in, business concerns, engaged in supplying goods or services to that Government or dependent primarily on grant of licenses, permits, quotas, leases, etc., from that Government.

The Minister will have to report the matter to the Prime Minister if any member of his family sets up or joins in the conduct and management of any other business. No Minister should personally or through a member of his family accept contribution for any purpose, whether political, charitable or otherwise. If any purse or cheque intended for a registered society, or a charitable body, or an institution recognised by a public authority, or a political party is presented to him, he should pass it on as soon as possible to the organisation for which it is intended.

A Minister should not associate himself with raising of funds except for the benefit of a registered society, or a charitable body, or an institution recognised by a public authority and a political party.He should, however, ensure that such contributions are sent to a specified office bearer, etc. of the society or body or institution of party concerned and not to him.

With regard to a business concern which supplies goods or services to the government concerned or to undertakings of that government or whose business primarily depends on licenses, permits, quotas, leases etc. received or to be received from the government concerned, the ministers will have to divest themselves of all interests in the said business and also of the management thereof.

However, the Minister may transfer in the case of his interest in the management, and in the case of both ownership and management, to any adult member of his family or adult relative, other than his or her spouse who was prior to Minister’s appointment associated with the conduct or management or ownership of the said business.The question of divesting himself his interests would not arise in case of holding of share in public limited companies except where the Prime Minister considers that the nature or extent of his holding is such that it is likely to embarrass him in the discharge of his official duties.

As per the code of conduct, a Minister, including the Union Ministers, the Chief Ministers and other Ministers of State Governments/Union Territories, should not permit their spouse and dependents to accept employment under a Foreign Government, in India or abroad, or in a foreign organisation (including commercial concerns) without prior approval of the Prime Minister.Where the wife or a dependent of a Minister is already in such employment, the matter should be reported to the Prime Minister for decision whether the employment should or should not continue.

As a general rule, there should be total prohibition on employment with a Foreign Mission.A Minister should not accept valuable gifts except from close relatives, and he or members of his family should not accept any gifts at all from any person with whom he may have official dealings nor permit a member of his family to contract debts of a nature likely to embarrass or influence him in the discharge of his official duties.

A Minister may receive gifts when he goes abroad or from foreign dignitaries in India. Such gifts fall into two categories. The first category will include gifts which are of symbolic nature, like a sword of honour, ceremonial robes etc.and which can be retained by the recipients.The second category of gifts would be those which are not of symbolic nature. If its value is less than Rs 5,000 it can be retained by the Minister.If, however, there is any doubt about the estimated value of the gift, the matter should be referred to the Toshakhana for valuation. If the value of the gift, on assessment is found to be within the prescribed limit of Rs 5,000 the gift will be returned to the Minister.

If it exceeds Rs 5,000 the recipient will have the option to purchase it from the Toshakhana by paying the difference between the value as assessed by the Toshakhana and Rs 5,000.Only gifts of household goods which are retained by the Toshakhana, such as carpets, paintings, furniture etc.exceeding Rs 5,000 in value, will be kept in Rashtrapati Bhavan, Prime Minister’s House or Raj Bhavan as State property.

A Minister should, while on official tour, as far as practicable stay in accommodation belonging to himself or maintained by government, government undertakings, public bodies or institutions (such as circuit houses, dak bungalows etc.) or in recognised hotels; and avoid attending, as far as possible, ostentatious or lavish parties given in his honour. It said authority would follow such procedure as it might deem fit, according to the facts and circumstances of each case, for dealing with or determining any alleged or suspected breach of this Code.