Skip to main content

India's constitutional conundrum? State, legislative, judicial bodies' RTI rules "not in consonance" with Central rules

By Our Representative
Facts have come to light suggesting that several state governments, and other authorities, including state legislatures and high courts, are taking advantage of lack of constitutional clarity on the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, in order to come up with RTI rules which “undermine” the Act’s “letter and spirit”.
Calling it a constitutional conundrum”, senior RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak, in a letter to Sanjay Kothari, secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India, has said that this is happening despite clear-cut instructions to states to “harmonize” states’ respective RTI rules with Central RTI Rules, 2012.
Pointing out that “hardly any positive action” is evident so far, Nayak said, this is happening because of “the unresolved issue of the unreasonable exercise of the power of delegated legislation under the RTI Act by delegatees and the absence of effective parliamentary/legislative oversight of the same.”
Pointing out that it is not clear in which list does the RTI Act fall – Central, State or Concurrent – Nayak said, “The Statement of Objects and Reasons attached to the RTI Bill, 2004 did not connect it to any subject in any of the Lists in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution”, which is related with the Concurrent list.
He added, “Instead the RTI Bill stated that the proposed legislation would provide an effective framework for effectuating the right of information recognized under Article 19 9 (relating to freedom of expression) of the Constitution.”
Nayak wondered, “Does this mean that the RTI Act pertains to List III as States can also make laws to give effect to fundamental rights? There is no entry in this List within which RTI can be fitted unequivocally.”
“Or can it be reasoned that Parliament passed this law under its residuary powers of legislation recognized under Article 248?”, he wondered, adding, “This will put the RTI Act in the domain of exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament. So State Legislatures will not be able to modify or annul Rules notified by the respective Governments.”
Pointing towards the “urgent need to resolve this constitutional conundrum”, Nayak said, “State Legislatures must be given the power to scrutinise, amend or annul the RTI Rules notified by the State Governments”, but Parliament “must exercise scrutiny of the manner in which competent authorities … exercise their rule making powers under the RTI Act.”
Citing relevant Parliamentary rules, Nayak stated, they make it “clear that both houses of Parliament can examine the RTI Rules notified by all state legislatures and chief justices of high courts.”
He added, “This will not affect the independence of the State Legislatures or the judiciary, as the parliamentary committees on subordinate legislation will only examine whether the powers granted by Parliament to the competent authorities for implementing RTI in their jurisdiction are being exercised.”
“However”, he underlined, “Due to the absence of a specific mention in the RTI Act of the laying requirement for these Rules they have escaped mandatory scrutiny by the Parliamentary committees on subordinate legislation. There is an urgent need to remedy this problem.”
Pointing out that as the administrative department for the RTI Act, the department of personnel and training, Government of India, “has an obligation to initiate action towards bringing RTI Rules notified by State Governments under the effective scrutiny of the respective State Legislatures”, Nayak said, “Similarly your Department has an obligation to initiate action to bring the RTI Rules framed by all High Courts to the attention of the twin parliamentary committees on subordinate legislation.”

Comments

TRENDING

Hindus to be 'sent' to Kashmir? Despite Israeli settlements, peace eludes the region

By Anand K Sahay*
Curfew, news and communications blackout, transportation shut-down... News reports from Kashmir are worrying. So are the views relayed through the media, especially television. Old-fashioned repression seems to be consorting comfortably with expressions of concern “for our Kashmiri brethren”. We are looking at Orwell’s 1984 in the making.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam*
In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Dholera 'inundated': Gujarat govt tries selling low lying area as top smart city site

Counterview Desk
Even as the Dholera Special Investment Region Regional Development Authority (DSIRDA) of the Gujarat government was busy organising a junket for Gujarat-based journalists for the area sought to be sold as an ideal special investment region (SIR) for industrialists, well-known farmers' activist Sagar Rabari has wondered why no investor has so far agreed to put in money in an area situated in Ahmedabad district along the Gulf of Khambhat.

UN experts object to GoI move to 'reinforce' trend of prosecution, eviction of tribals

Counterview Desk
In a report sent to the Government of India, three United Nations (UN) special rapporteurs, expressing "concerns" over the failure to ensure "adequate" implementation of the India Forest Rights Act (FRA), have regretted that the Government of India has not cared to reply their previous communications on this.

Modi's Gujarati mind? Why govt move to 'sell-off' defence PSUs isn't in national interest

By Sandeep Pandey*
The Standing Committee on Defence, 2017-18, of the 16th Lok Sabha highlights the idea of Buy Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured). The Committee expressed concern over the import content of equipments produced and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factories (OFs) and defence Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) because of the dependence it creates for military hardware on foreign suppliers.

As submergence stares Narmada valley, Patkar says: With powerful in throne, we're helpless

Counterview Desk
Well-known anti-dam organization, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), plans to begin its “Resist Illegal Submergence in Narmada Valley” satyagraha on August 21 at Jantar Mantar, Delhi, amidst news that the situation in the valley is “critical”, with two persons having already died in flood-related incidents in the upstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam.

RTI Act holy cow for Govt of India? Official insists, don't ask why, when, what, where

By Pankti Jog*
The Government of India appears to have begun treating the Right to Information (RTI) Act as a holy cow. Its officials seem to believe that the Act is a sacred law, under which people shouldn't be questioning its functioning. One recalls what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while addressing an RTI convention in 2015: “Why should government wait for people to ask information, we will have all information out in the domain, we have nothing to hide."

Strategy for united struggle against Hindutva 'fascism': Ideological silence is 'no option'

By Dr Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
Electoral alliance and opportunism of national and regional political parties, neoliberal economic marginalisation and soft secular Hindutva line pandering to Hindu majoritarianism laid the foundation of Hindutva fascism in post-colonial India.

Can't go to court with RTI information, rule Ahmedabad authorities: Kankaria accident

By Pankti Jog*
In a shocking reply to an application filed by me, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) authorities have said that the information provided under the Right to Information (RT) Act should be used in court or in a judicial process. The Act is known to be a major tool that enables citizens to seek certified copies of documents, records from any public authority of state and Central government within 30 days, as per provisions of the Act.

Kashmirisation of India? Ayodhya communal harmony meet: Activists stopped, detained

Counterview Desk
In a joint statement, three civil rights organizations, Rihai Manch, National Alliance of People's Movements and Lok Rajniti Manch, and Socialist Party (India), have taken strong exception to the Uttar Pradesh government taking "preventive" steps against those seeking to hold a meeting on communal harmony at Ayodhya.