New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Tuesday ruled that the office of the attorney general of India (AGI) is a public authority, bringing it under the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
Two petitions, one by Subhash Chandra Agrawal and the other by R.K. Jain, had sought information from the AGI’s office. Agrawal, in 2012, approached the Central Information Commission (CIC), which ruled on 10 December 2012 that the AGI’s office was not a public authority. Jain’s plea was rejected by the AGI’s office in 2013 based on this full bench decision of CIC. The Delhi high court set aside this ruling of CIC.
Following an earlier ruling of the Supreme Court, which had held that the AGI’s office is a public office, a single judge of the Delhi high court said that this would also extend to the meaning of public authority under section 2(h) of the RTI Act.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru did not find merit in the reasoning that because AGI mostly performed advisory functions, he could not be considered as an “authority".
“An office that is established under the Constitution of India would clearly fall within the definition of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act," it added.
“...the role of the AGI is not limited to merely acting as a lawyer for the Government of India...the AGI is a constitutional functionary and is also obliged to discharge the functions under the Constitution as well as under any other law," the judgement said.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, who was appointed to the office on 12 June 2014, declined to comment over the phone as he had not seen a copy of the ruling.
The court noted in its judgement that information sought that fell within the exceptions provided under the Law Officer (Conditions of Service) Rules, 1987, would be exempt from the provisions of the RTI Act. Section 8 of these rules restricts law officers from advising parties against the central government.
Jurist Upendra Baxi, while saying that he hadn’t seen a copy of the judgement, said that lawyer-client communication would also be exempt.
He also added that since the RTI Act did not apply to the Supreme Court, any matter touching the judicial process in the knowledge of AGI, like the collegium appointments to the apex court or high court, would also be exempt.