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Goa governor summoned by state information commissioner

The governor of Goa who refused to furnish information to an RTI applicant on grounds that the governor is not a public authority has been summoned by the Goa Information Commission to explain his stand

In an unprecedented move, the Goa Information Commission has summoned Governor Dr S S Sidhu for claiming that the Right to Information Act did not apply to his office. This was after the governor’s office had refused to furnish information under the right to information (RTI) on grounds that the governor was not a public authority.

On November 29, 2010, social activist Aires Rodrigues’ RTI application sought details on action taken on complaints made by him to the Goa governor against Advocate General Subodh Kantak.

On November 30, N Radhakrishnan, special secretary to the governor, wrote back refusing to give out the information saying the governor of Goa was not a public authority. An affidavit to this effect had been filed before the Bombay High Court, in Goa.

Rodrigues countered saying the governor couldn’t make such a claim just because an affidavit had been filed in the high court. He was bound to comply with all provisions of the RTI Act. Rodrigues wrote to Radhakrishnan, who is also the PIO at Raj Bhavan.

An RTI applicant can also appeal to the first appellate authority, which, in this case, was secretary to the governor, Narendra Kumar. But Rodrigues utilised Section 18 (1) (b) of the RTI Act, under which an applicant can directly go to the State Information Commission. On December 21, he moved the State Information Commission, headed by Motilal Keny, a retired sessions judge from Mumbai. He said he was refused information under RTI on grounds that the governor wasn’t a public authority and didn’t come within the purview of the transparency law.

On December 22, 2010, the commission sent a notice directing the governor to personally appear before the state chief information commissioner at 10.30 am on January 4, 2011.

The notice sent to the governor said: ‘You are required to appear before this commission in person and not to depart hence without leave of the commission, and you are hereby warned that if you shall, without just excuse, neglect or refuse to appear on the aforesaid date and time, failing which the complaint will be decided in your absence.’

The commission has also directed N Radhakrishnan to be present at the time.

Under the RTI Act, all government offices including Rashtrapati Bhavan, the prime minister’s office and the Supreme Court are public authorities. The only organisations exempted are intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces specified in a schedule attached to the RTI Act.

Source: PTI, December 23, 2010
           Zee News, December 23, 2010
          The Statesman, December 23, 2010