Governor's report to President covered under RTI
A copy of the Goa governor's report to the Union home minister regarding the political situation in the state during the period between July 24-August 14, 2007 was declined by the PIO. The order of the Goa State Information Commission directing the PIO to provide the information was appealed before the Goa bench of the Mumbai High Court. A division bench of Justices D G Karnik and D M Reis observed, "It must be held that the governor cannot claim an exemption under clause (e) of sub-clause (1) of Section 8 of the RTI Act in respect of disclosure of a report made by him under Article 356 of the Constitution."
View of the HC
The Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha claimed that the information relating to day-to-day governance was available with ministries and departments and the rare constitutional functions discharged by the governor as the head of the state could not be said to have been discharged as a public authority as the RTI Act regarded him only as "competent authority". Referring to the Delhi High Court order which termed the chief justice of India as a public authority, the bench said "The reason for which the CJI was a 'public authority' notwithstanding him being the 'competent authority' apply with equal force for not excluding the President and the governor from the definition of public authority." The bench held that even though the President and the governors were the heads of the country and the state respectively, they were amenable to directions from any other authority like State Information Commission. The bench said the President did not hold a fiduciary relationship with governors of states and hence, the information about the report made by the Goa governor to the President could not be held secret and kept out of the purview of RTI Act.
Article 356 of the Constitution for imposition of central rule in a state has been a bone of contention in the centre-state relationship. It has been used by political parties for their own benefit at different times. While a transparency in the decision making is likely to curtail its misuse, only the future would tell the magnitude of its effect. As of now, one is likely to see more legal action when the matter reaches the Supreme Court.