The very cumbersome battle to get the Goa Raj Bhavan to comply with the Right to Information Act has been dragging on for over a decade. It is most reprehensible that the Goa Governor has been attempting to stifle the due enforcement of the RTI Act which is a legislation passed by Parliament with the aim to bring transparency in the working of the Government both at the Centre and the State. The Right to Information Act was enacted to ensure clearness and accountability in public life. But the manner in which the Goa Raj Bhavan has been subverting the RTI Act is a matter of concern.
The Goa Raj Bhavan has been deviously claiming that it is not a "Public Authority". But under the RTI Act, a "public authority" includes any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted by or under the Constitution. Undoubtedly, the post of Governor is created by the Constitution. Article 153 of the Constitution says that there shall be a Governor for each State, so the post of Governor is created by the Constitution.
The Governor owes its existence to the Constitution. It therefore, cannot be doubted that the post of Governor is created by or under the Constitution. Being so, the Governor is clearly covered by the definition of the "public authority". The Governor does not enjoy any immunity from disclosure of information under the RTI Act.
All Raj Bhavans across the country including the Rashtrapati Bhavan have opened their gates for freedom of Information. The Goa Raj Bhavan has apparently forgotten that the Governor is a constitutional functionary required to act as per the constitutional mandate with total transparency and not as any colonial hangover.
Only those who have skeletons to hide would attempt to insulate themselves by claiming privileges with their inability to free themselves from the shackles of glory which they seek to enjoy with gubernatorial positions.
While acts of Ministers are subject to scrutiny and available to the public under RTI, there can be no justification why the Governor should be shying away from furnishing information as the Governor is maintained and paid by the State Exchequer.
The Goa Raj Bhavan's attempt to subvert the legislative intent of the RTI Act and its brazen arrogance in not complying with the law of the country cannot be permitted nor accepted from Constitutional functionaries.
The Right to Information is derived from our fundamental Right of expression under Article 19 of our Constitution. If we do not have information on how our Government and public institutions function, we cannot express any informed opinion on it. This has been reiterated by various Supreme Court judgments since 1977.
The Right to Information Act has been hailed as the hallmark of our democracy. The Act aims at making the government transparent and more accountable. The effective use of it would, in the long run, curb corruption. Right to Information Act has become a powerful tool in exposing corruption at all levels of government.
A well informed citizenry, transparency, and free flow of information are the very foundations of any successful democratic society. India may be publicly acclaimed as the world's largest democracy but the ground reality is that we are now ebbing away to an autocratic cowboy regime. Democracy and non-transparency in the functioning of the Government cannot co-exist. Besides freedom of speech without access to information is meaningless.
Our Supreme Court has observed that "The free flow of information about affairs of Government paves way for debate in public policy and fosters accountability in Government. It creates a condition for 'open governance' which is a foundation of democracy."
It shall be my endeavor to ensure that in 2019 the Goa Raj Bhavan starts complying with the Transparency law and lifts its current unlawful and awfully deplorable veil of secrecy.
Advocate High Court
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