Parliamentarians take up NGO-Lokpal issue with PMO

A group of Parliamentarians took up the issue of non-government organisations (NGOs) being brought under the ambit of Lokpal and Lokayukta Act in a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Monday. This comes after a series of representations from industry groups, business chambers and NGOs seeking a review of the definition of 'public servants' for the purpose of the Lokpal Act.

Sources said the government could consider the option of withdrawing a recent notification that brought corporate groups as well as NGOs under the definition of public servants. Some representations made to the government asked for extension of the deadline for declaration of assets beyond July 31 as a short-term reprieve, but there's no decision on that yet.

It is learnt that a delegation of members of Parliament (MPs) including Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar and Rajya Sabha member and former chairperson of Thermax Anu Aga, among others, met top representatives of the PMO for clarity on the subject. No official confirmation was available from the PMO on this.

Aga had raised the issue in Parliament a few days ago, saying: "As the disclosures are required to be made before July 31 failing which there will be dire consequences, the issue needs to be addressed urgently... Trustees of these NGOs are not public servants...''

She had pointed out that since the detailed information about their personal and private assets would be in the public domain, many trustees are apprehensive they would be subject to possible harassment. Backing NGOs, she had said they had a detailed disclosure procedure. Digvijaya Singh of Congress, too, had supported Aga on the matter. Information and broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu said the government would work on a consensus on the issue.

A recent government notification said officials and senior employees of bodies receiving funding from overseas or from the government beyond specified limits would be covered under the Lokpal Act and must disclose their assets as well as the assets of their spouse and dependent children by July 31.

Last week, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) stated: "The application of the Act to a wide number of charitable organisations and their functionaries can seriously impede social and philanthropic activities by genuine participants.''