A Controversial Judgement on RTI Act

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In decided case Union of India THR. THE SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF LAW AND JUSTICE vs. Subhash Chandra Agrawal, the Delhi High court has decided that Office of AGI does not fall under purview of public authority and thus declining permission to respondent seeking information regarding representation/ petition received from Indirect tax association, Bangalore.

Respondent file an application for obtaining some information with regard to office of Attorney General of India (AGI) under section 18 of RTI act; his application had been rejected on the grounds that office of AGI does not fall under public authority as has been stated in Section 2(h) of the RTI act and there is no CPIO in AGI office. Subsequently respondent approached to Central Information Commission and his file was being rejected on same grounds.

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Then respondent hell bent on wish to approach to higher authorities and then approaches Delhi High Court for resolution. Justice Vibhu Bakhru, a learned justice, bawl out to authorities and set aside the said orders delivered by CIC on evident that AGI is being an authority under Article 76, Constitution of India falls within the definition of public authority under Section2 (h) of RTI act. And remanded them for reconsideration of writ petition.

Against an order of learned justice, Central Govt. made an appeal to division bench of same high court. The Bench observed that the main function of AGI are to advise Govt. of India upon legal matters, to remain present before Hon’ble Supreme court or any high court on behalf on Govt. of India. Moreover, Supreme Court may take action against criminal contempt on a motion made by the AGI or AGI is an ex officio member of Bar council represent a small proportions of duties of an AGI. Essentially function of AGI is akin to an Advocate of Govt. of India, he is in a fiduciary relationship with the Govt. of India and cannot be put into public domain his opinion or material forwarded to him by Govt. Of India.

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Referring to Section 126 of the Evidence act which says that no barrister, attorney, pleader or vakeel shall at any time be permitted, unless with client’s express consent, to disclose any communication made to him.

One of the objects of democracy is to bring about transparency of information to contain corruption and bring about accountability. But achieving this object does not mean that other equally important public interests including efficient functioning of the governments and public authorities, optimum use of limited fiscal resources, preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information, etc. are to be ignored or sacrificed. The object of RTI Act is to harmonize the conflicting public interests, that is, ensuring transparency to bring in accountability and containing corruption on the one hand, and at the same time ensure that the revelation of information, in actual practice, does not harm or adversely affect other public interests which include efficient functioning of the governments, optimum use of limited fiscal resources and preservation of confidentiality of sensitive information, on the other hand. While Sections 3 and 4 seek to achieve the first objective, Sections 8, 9, 10 and 11 seek to achieve the second objective referring to case Instituted of Chartered accountant of India vs. Shaunak H Satya & Ors.

The bench decided “ looking at the object of the act, it appears to us that it would not have envisaged encompassing an office like that of an AGI to be covered under Section 2(h) of RTI act and held office of AGI not fall under public authority thus not under purview of RTI.

 

By:

Shubham Gupta

 

 

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