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

132 Gujarat citizens, including IIM-A faculty, others declare solidarity with Kashmiris

Counterview Desk
A week after it was floated, 132 activists, academics, students, artists and other concerned citizens of Gujarat, backed by 118 living in different parts of India and the world, have signed a "solidarity letter" supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), who, it claims, have been silenced and held captive in their own land. The signatories include faculty members and scholars of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Bharat Ratna nominee ‘joined hands’ with British masters to 'crush' Quit India

By Shamsul Islam*
The Quit India Movement (QIM), also known as ‘August Kranti' (August Revolution), was a nation-wide Civil Disobedience Movement for which a call was given on August 7, 1942 by the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee. It was to begin on August 9 as per Gandhi's call to 'Do or Die' in his Quit India speech delivered in Bombay at the Gowalia Tank Maidan on August 8. Since then August 9 is celebrated as August Kranti Divas.

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…

Cess for Gujarat construction workers: Spending less than 10%; no 'direct help' to beneficiaries

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, set up in 2004, as of March 31, 2019, has collected a total cess of Rs 2,097.62 crore from the the builders, it has spent less than 10% -- Rs 197.17 crore. And, as on May 31, 2019, the total cess collection has reached Rs 2,583.16 crore, said a statement issued by Bandhkam Majur Sagathan general secretary Vipul Pandya.
Pointing out that just about 6.5 lakh out of 20 lakh workers have been registered under the board, Pandya said, vis-à-vis other states, Gujarat ranks No 13th in the amount spent on the welfare of the construction workers, while 11th in the amount collected.
And while the builders are obliged to pay just about 1% of the total cost of their project, the calculation of the cess is flawed: It is Rs 3,000 per square yard; accordingly, Rs 30 per square yard is collected. “Had the cess been collected on the real construction cost, it would have been at least Rs 7,000 cr…