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

#MeToo moment in Hyderabad Urdu varsity? Two girl students seek action against authorities

Counterview Desk
Has the #MeToo movement reached Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANU)? It would seem so if a recent letter by newly-appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed to MAANU vice-chancellor Dr Aslam Parvaiz is any indication. Seeking reinstatement of two girl victims of “sexual harassment and humiliation”, the letter specifically names head of the department of the Media Centre for Journalism, suspecting, the problem could be much deeper.
Text of the letter: It is a matter of utmost perturbation for me to receive the two representations from the girls studying in the MCJ (Media Center for Journalism) regarding their sexual and subsequently, mental and social harassment at the hands of Prof Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, the HOD, MCJ.
We do not know, how many girls have been exploited by him and preferred to be silent for saving their family’s honour; however, there are two brave girls who stood to the depraved advances and misuse by Prof Ehtesham and came up with written complai…

Gujarat BJP MLAs, youth leader "incited" attack on North Indians: Cong releases video

Counterview Desk
Senior Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, currently in charge of Bihar and national spokesperson, All-India Congress Committee, has sent a legal notice to chief minister Vijay Rupani threatening criminal case and civil defamation suit for accusing him with "baseless statement" that he was responsible for attacks on north Indians in Gujarat.

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

"Highly irregular" for PSUs to fund Sardar Statue under Corporate Social Responsibility

Counterview Desk
In a letter to I Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, former secretary (economic affairs), Ministry of Finance, EAS Sarma, has raised questions on the funding of the Sardar Patel statue in South Gujarat by Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSUs) relying on the Comptroller and Auditor General report (No 18/2018).

Post-MJ Akbar resignation: #MeToo movement and fears of backlash

By Sheshu Babu*
For the last few days, #MeToo movement has picked up momentum and many women are coming out with horrific tales of severe harassment in their past lives. They are not afraid anymore to expose famous persons including those at ministerial levels. As a senior journalist Neeraja Chowdhury opined (“An exit, a beginning”, October 18, 2018, indianexpress.com), "The #MeToo revelations are like the eruption of a volcano which was imminent, given the journey working women have covered. It was not easy to make public what they had gone through,and take on powerful men.”

Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

J&K Governor's rule: BJP's "failure" to go ahead with 44-plus strategy

By Syed Mujtaba Hussian*
Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) continues to witness cataclysm of events ever since the killing of editor-in-chief of “Rising Kashmir”, Shujaat Bukhari, followed by the BJP’s deliberated parting of ways with its coalition partner, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and imposition of Governor rule.

NTPC's "poor" track record on workers' safety, whether permanent or on contract

Counterview Desk
A recent report, “The Dark Side of NTPC: A Critical Look at the Social and Environmental Footprints of NTPC”, traces the performance of one of the four Navaratnas which also happens to be a Fortune 500 company, the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), pointing out that, while it has played, for over four decades, “pivotal role” in India’s quest for development, this development was energy intensive and has caused “a plethora of negative impacts to people, environment and sustainability over the years.”