Viju B, TNN 7 September 2009, 12:46am IST
MUMBAI: State chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi and the Central Information Commission (CIC) recently directed that the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa do come under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The directives put state information commissioner Ramanand Tiwari in the spotlight for the wrong reason, because he had earlier ruled to the contrary.
Worli resident Rajan Alimchandani had filed an RTI query two years ago, asking the bar council about provisions under which he could take permission from the appropriate court to take penal action against an advocate before the council. The officials representing the bar council as the public information officer (PIO) and the appellate authority, rejected the query, stating that the bar council did not come under the purview of the RTI Act.
Alimchandani then filed an appeal and Tiwari in his order said the bar council did not fit the definition of a public authority. "It is not a body or an institution of self-government established by law. It is also not financed by the government. It is true that it has been established by law, but any organisation or body which claims to be doing anything legitimate has to be registered under some law,'' Tiwari said.
He quoted a Karnataka high court order, which held that co-operative societies are not public authorities though they are constituted by law. "I conclude that the bar council is not a public authority, therefore the appeal is dismissed,'' Tiwari said in his order.
Alimchandani had also approached the state information commission. State chief information commissioner Suresh Joshi, who was hearing a clutch of appeals, including Alimchandani's, against the PIO said that the RTI Act covers a public authority constituted by any law or notification issued by the government.
"The bar council may not be getting any financial assistance. But it is constituted by law made by Parliament and that is sufficient to bring it within the ambit of public authority. The Bar Council of India, which is the apex body, is responding to the RTI applications and there is no reason why the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa should not follow them,'' Joshi said.
Joshi also added that the bar council should appoint a PIO and appellate officer and decide all RTI applications according to the provisions of the Act.
Alimchandani had also written to the President and Prime Minister's Office on the issue. The queries were directed to the CIC, which also replied that the bar council comes under the purview of the RTI Act. According to the CIC, at a convention held last year, the commission had clarified the issue. The CIC said that both Joshi and Tiwari were present at the convention in Delhi.
Meanwhile, Alimchandani has written to the governor asking for action against Tiwari for passing a wrong order. Incidentally, Tiwari is no stranger to RTI controversy. Earlier this year, he overruled Joshi's order and rejected an appeal, seeking details pertaining to deputy registrars of all municipal wards in the city. Tiwari passed the order just two weeks after Joshi passed his order.