Goa Governor is not a Public Authority, claims Raj Bhavan

Goa State Information Commission has fixed the matter for final arguments on July 26

The Raj Bhavan, Goa, on Wednesday claimed before the Goa State Information Commission (GSIC) that the Goa Governor is not a "Public Authority" and does not come within the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

Secretary to Goa Governor Rupesh Kumar Thakur, in his 15-page affidavit in a reply filed on Wednesday in response to the complaint filed by activist-lawyer Aires Rodrigues over the non-compliance of the RTI Act by the Raj Bhavan, has stated that Goa Raj Bhavan is not a legal entity and certainly not a Public Authority. The GSIC has fixed the matter for final arguments on July 26.

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 the Governor is the appointing authority of the State Information Commissioners and is also vested with the power to recommend their removal.

While denying that all other Raj Bhavans have appointed Public Information Officers (PIOs), the Secretary to the Goa Governor in his reply has stated that merely because some other Raj Bhavans have appointed PIOs does not mean that the Goa Raj Bhavan is bound or compelled by law to also appoint a PIO.

Mr. Thakur further stated that the Governor not being a Public Authority cannot be compelled or directed by the SIC to appoint a PIO.

The complaint by Adv. Rodrigues

In the complaint filed by Adv. Rodrigues under section 18 (1) (a) of the RTI Act, the complainant had said that the Goa Raj Bhavan despite being a "Public Authority’ in terms of section 2 (h) of the RTI Act has not appointed a 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, malafide and without reasonable cause.

While seeking directions to the Goa Raj Bhavan to forthwith appoint a PIO and to also make the mandatory disclosures under Section 4 (1) of the RTI as required by law, the complainant 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 earlier in the past by Adv. Rodrigues, the then State Chief Information Commissioner Motilal Keny on March 31, 2011 had ruled that the Goa Governor was a "Public Authority" and did come within the ambit of the RTI 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 November 14, 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. Rodrigues information that was sought by him under the RTI Act.

A Division Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy on January 30 this year dismissed the Special Leave Petition filed by the Goa Raj Bhavan.

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