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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Non-compliance of RTI act: Goa Raj Bhavan seeks further time to file reply

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The Goa Raj Bhavan today sought further time to file its reply to the complaint filed by Adv. Aires Rodrigues over the  non-compliance of the Right to Information Act by the Raj Bhavan. At the last hearing the Raj Bhavan had sought two weeks time to file the reply.

The Goa State Information Commission adjourned the matter for final arguments on July 11th while directing the Raj Bhavan to furnish Adv. Rodrigues a copy of their reply at least three days in advance.

In the complaint filed by Adv. Aires Rodrigues under section 18 (1) (a) of the RTI Act he 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 in his complaint 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 in his complaint 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 were 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 that 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.

After hearing 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 directing the Raj Bhavan to furnish Adv. Aires Rodrigues information that was sought by him under the Right to information Act.

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.

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