5 ex-councillors yet to declare assets and liabilities
Five former councillors have reportedly not submitted statements declaring their assets and liabilities for the 2018-19 fiscal to the Lokayukta. A report on the same has been submitted to the Urban Development Department, Administrator and Commissioner of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) by the Lokayukta’s office for “necessary action”.
Every year, councillors of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), like many other elected representatives of local bodies, are required to submit statements declaring their assets and liabilities to the Lokayukta. This is a requirement under Section 22(2) of the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984.
Sources pointed out that though submission of statements is mandatory for all elected representatives, right from gram panchayat members to MLAs, the Lokayukta Act is largely silent on action to be initiated if the elected representatives fail to do so.
Concurring, former Opposition Leader in BBMP council M. Shivaraju said that there have been several instances when even MLAs have failed to declare their assets and liabilities, and no action was initiated against them. “As per the Karnataka Municipal Corporations Act, 1976, we are required to submit statements every year to the mayor’s office. The BBMP council had also discussed the issue of submitting a separate set of statements to the Lokayukta office, and several councillors had deemed it as an unnecessary exercise,” he said.
Former Opposition Leader Padmanabha Reddy pointed out that as per the KMC Act, failure to declare assets and liabilities could lead to disqualification. “Former mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun and I had challenged the Lokayukta order directing all councillors to submit their financial statements. However, it was not accepted and we did not pursue it further,” he said, adding that he had already submitted his statements for 2018-19 and 2019-20.
S. Amaresh, managing trustee of RTI Study Centre, said ideally, there should be punitive action if elected representatives failed to declare their assets and liabilities. “If there is no consequence to not submitting their financial statements, why will anyone file it?” He sought to know what action could be initiated against the former councillors now that the term of the council had ended.
Lokayukta P. Vishwanatha Shetty admitted to lacuna in the legislation and that the consequences need to be strengthened. He said it was up to the BBMP Administrator and Commissioner to examine the legal provisions and take a decision. “It is now up to the citizens to also take cognisance of the matter,” he said.
He also said that his office had not insisted on the declaration of assets and liabilities for the 2019-20 fiscal. “The Income Tax department has given citizens time till December 31, 2020. We also decided to not precipitate the matter for this year. A decision will be taken in January 2021,” he added.