Thursday, December 8, 2011

SC stays HC order on disclosure under RTI of governor's report to President

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed further action pursuant to a high court order bringing the governor under the ambit of RTI Act.

A governor's report to the Centre on political situation in a state cannot be kept secret if an application has been made for its disclosure under RTI, the Goa bench of Bombay high court had ruled last month, in a judgement that could cause great discomfort to the Union government.

"The Governor or Public Information Officer (PIO) in his office cannot claim immunity from disclosure of any information under RTI Act," a division bench of the court observed on November 14.

The bench comprising Justices D G Karnik and F M Reis made the observation while disposing of two petitions, including one that challenged an order of an appellate authority asking the PIO to disclose a report sent by governor to the Union Home Ministry on the political situation in the state in 2007.

A governor's report forms the basis of important decisions by the Centre in respect of states, including bringing it under President's rule.

Conceding that under Article 361 of the Constitution, the governor enjoys complete immunity and is not answerable to any court in exercise and performance of the powers and duties of his office, the bench said it does not take away the powers of the court to examine the validity of his actions including on the ground of malafides.

"Governor is not sovereign and sovereignty does not vest in him. The contention that by reason of he being sovereign no direction can be issued to the Governor for disclosure of any information under RTI Act, cannot be accepted".

Holding that the relationship between the President and the governor is not fiduciary, the judges said "Consequently, the information sought by Manohar Parrikar, the then leader of opposition in Goa state assembly, ie copy of governor's report to the President (through the Home Minister) under Article 356(1) of the Constitution is not exempt from disclosure under section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act."

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