Monday, February 22, 2010

Cabinet's advice to the president covered by RTI: CIC

Cabinet's advice to the president covered by RTI: CIC

DNA Monday, February 22, 2010 17:51 IST

New Delhi: The advice tendered by the Union Cabinet to the president in any matter can be disclosed under the Right to Information Act (RTI), the Central Information Commission (CIC) held today.

CIC Wajahat Habibullah quoting a Supreme Court ruling said Article 74(2) of the Indian Constitution implies that such advice "cannot be inquired" into by any court.

"It does not mean that the nature of this advice cannot be disclosed," he said while directing the president's secretariat to allow inspection of files pertaining to communication between former president Shanker Dayal Sharma and former prime minister Narasimha Rao on the issue of extending SC status of convert Christians of dalit origin.

An RTI applicant Franklin Ceasar Thomas had sought details of action taken by the then president Shankar Dayal Sharma on the ordinance for granting scheduled caste status to convert Christians of enumerated castes.

The president's Secretariat refused to grant access to the files saying the then President had not given assent to the ordinance and that as the issue involves previledged correspondence with the president and the prime minister the same has been denied as per provisions of the RTI Act.

Article 74 (2) says the question whether any, and if so what, advice was tendered by ministers to the president shall not be inquired into any court. Habibullah quoted a decision of the Supreme Court on the Article saying "Its (Article 74 (2) of the Constitution) object was only to make the question whether the President had followed the advice of the ministers or acted contrary thereto, non-justiciable".

"Put simply, this will imply that such advice cannot be inquired by any court. It does not mean that the nature of this advice cannot be disclosed. For this reason and in the light of the Right to Information Act, 2005 CPIO is directed to allow inspection of relevant files," he said.

Thomas had also sought inspection of the files from the prime minister's Office which had allowed the request when the matter reached the CIC.


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The RTI Act was passed by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) on 11 May 2005, by the Raj Sabha (Upper House) on 12 May 2005 and received Presidential assent on 15 June 2005. Parts of the Act came into force upon Presidential assent, but the Act came fully into force on 12 October 2005, 120 days after Presidential assent.

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