The Goa State Information Commission (GSIC) will on Friday August 24th hear final oral arguments on the complaint filed by Adv. Aires Rodrigues over the non-compliance of the Right to Information Act by the Goa Raj Bhavan. Adv. Aires Rodrigues and the Secretary to the Governor Rupesh Thakur have already submitted their written arguments.
In the complaint filed under section 18 (1) (a) of the RTI Act Adv. Aires Rodrigues has drawn the attention of the GSIC that the Goa Raj Bhavan despite being a “Public authority’ in terms of section 2 (h) of the RTI Act has not appointed a Public Information Officer (PIO) for members of the public to be able to seek information and that the Goa Raj Bhavan has also not made the mandatory disclosures required under section 4 (1) of the RTI Act.
Adv. Rodrigues has stated that as the Goa Raj Bhavan is covered under the definition of public authority, the failure to appoint a PIO was illegal, very high-handed, malafide and without reasonable cause.
Adv. Rodrigues has further stated that it was very deplorable that the Goa Raj Bhavan instead of leading by example has been scuttling an Act which was enacted to ensure transparency and accountability in the functioning of the Government and that the high-handed conduct of the Goa Raj Bhavan was unacceptable while it cannot be allowed to breach its constitutional obligation of having to comply with the law.
Pointing out that with the exception of Goa all other Raj Bhavans across the country and even the Rastrapathi Bhavan are complying with the RTI Act, Adv. Rodrigues has in his complaint stated that instead of strengthening the Transparency law, the Goa Raj Bhavan has allowed it to be weakened and it was imperative that this veil of secrecy be lifted so that there could be public scrutiny into the affairs and working of the Goa Raj Bhavan.
While seeking directions to the Goa Raj Bhavan to forthwith appoint a Public Information Officer and to also make the mandatory disclosures under Section 4 (1) of the RTI as required by law, Adv. Rodrigues has sought that the GSIC also impose penalty on the Goa Raj Bhavan as prescribed under Section 20 of the RTI Act.
On a complaint filed by Adv. Aires Rodrigues the then State Chief Information Commissioner Mr. Motilal Keny on 31st March 2011 had ruled that the Goa Governor was a “Public Authority” and did come within the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
Later dismissing the appeal filed by the Goa Raj Bhavan against the order of the GSIC, the Bombay High Court at Goa in a landmark 58 page judgment pronounced on 14th November 2011 also ruled that the Governor of Goa was a Public Authority and was bound to furnish information sought under the RTI Act.
Taking a stand that the Goa Governor is not a Public Authority and does not come within the ambit of the RTI Act, the Goa Raj Bhavan later challenged before the Supreme Court the Bombay High Court judgment. A Division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy on 30th January this year dismissed the Special Leave Petition filed by the Goa Raj Bhavan.