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GSIC to hear final arguments on complaint against Goa Raj bhavan

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The Goa State Information Commission (GSIC) will on Thursday 26th July hear final arguments on the complaint filed by Adv. Aires Rodrigues over the non-compliance of the Right to Information Act by the Goa Raj Bhavan.

The Secretary to Goa Governor Rupesh Kumar Thakur in his 15 page Affidavit in reply filed to the complaint has stated that Goa Raj Bhavan is not a legal entity and certainly not a ‘public Authority’.

Pointing out that the Governor enjoys immunity under Article 361 of the Constitution of India and is not answerable to any Court, the Secretary to the Governor has in his reply stated that Governor is the appointing authority of the State Information Commissioners and is also vested with the power to recommend their removal.

In the complaint filed under section 18 (1) (a) of the RTI Act 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 RajBhavan has also not made the mandatory disclosures required under section 4 (1) of the RTI Act.

In the complaint it has been 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.

The complaint further states 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.

With the exception of Goa all other Raj Bhavans across the country and even the Rastrapathi Bhavan are complying with the RTI Act. Instead of strengthening the Transparency law, the Goa Raj Bhavan has allowed it to be weakened and it is 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, the complaint has sought that the GSIC also impose penalty on the Goa Raj Bhavan as prescribed under Section 20 of the RTI Act.

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 on30th January this year dismissed the Special Leave Petition filed by the Goa Raj Bhavan.

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