Why can’t the office of high constitutional functionaries like Governor come under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Supreme Court asked today. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy raised the question during the hearing of a plea file by the Centre challenging a 2011 order of Bombay High Court directing the disclosure of Governor’s report given to the President about the political situation in Goa in 2007. “Why cannot the office of high constitutional authorities like Governor be brought under the ambit of RTI? There should not be anything to hide,” the bench remarked. Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar appearing for Centre said a similar petition was pending before the apex court which should also be tagged along with the current petition. He said a petition relating to disclosure of assets by Chief Justice of India has been referred to a constitution bench and the petition should also be tagged along with it. To this, the bench said, even Chief Justice should not have any reason to keep the information under the wraps regarding his assets.
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Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for an intervenor, said the Governor’s report also cannot be kept under wraps and it should be brought under the ambit of the RTI Act. He said that reports of governor should be disclosed as directed by the Panaji bench of Bombay High Court. The bench said that for tagging the earlier petition with the current petition, the petitioner will have to mention the matter before the Chief Justice. It posted the matter for further hearing in the third week of August. The Panaji bench of Bombay High Court had extended the ambit of the RTI Act when it had ruled that a Governor’s report to the Centre about the political situation in the state should be disclosed. The High Court had refused to accept the argument that the President and the Governors were the heads of the country and the state respectively and were not amenable to directions from any other authority like the state information commission.
It had said that the President does not hold a fiduciary relationship with the Governors of states and thus the information about the report made by the Goa Governor to the President could not be held secret and kept out of the ambit of Act. The then leader of opposition, Manohar Parrikar, had sought a copy of the Goa Governor’s report to the President under RTI Act regarding the political situation in the state during the period between July 24-August 14, 2007. The governor’s principal information officer (PIO) had declined to provide the information. However, the Goa State Information Commission directed the Raj Bhawan to provide the report to Parrikar. The PIO appealed against it before the Goa bench which ruled against it saying the Governor cannot claim exemption under the clauses of Section 8 of the RTI Act in respect of disclosure of a report made by him under Article 356 of the Constitution.