HYDERABAD: In a rather shocking instance, governor ESL Narasimhan has excluded his office from providing any information to the public. Responding to a recent RTI query, his office has told the applicant that it does not come under the ambit of Right to Information Act anymore. The website of the governor’s office had, as recently as last year, had a link to RTI-related information whereas the redisigned website does not. However, the websites of governors of the states of Kerala, Karnataka and Goa, among the southern states, feature RTI details whereas Tamil Nadu, like Narasimhan’s office, does not feature any RTI section.
Ironically, while the office of the President still remains under the ambit of RTI Act of 2005 and disseminates information to applicants, the governor, who is appointed by the President, has chosen to stay immune from the Act. “As the governor’s is a constitutional post and his office is funded by public money, his office cannot deny being a public authority,” said Rakesh Reddy of United Forum for RTI, who was approached by the RTI applicant.
In a letter dated February 24 to applicant Munindra Reddy of Guduru in Nellore district, the governor’s office stated that the Union government had excluded the governor’s office from the RTI ambit and that it was not a public authority. It also cited a special leave petition (civil) pending in the Supreme Court stating that it cannot be deemed public authority until the verdict.
While Raj Bhavan authorities claimed ignorance, the same was the case when contacted the chief information commissioner. “The case pertains to one between the Goa government and the governor of Goa in 2008. The Supreme Court has been sitting on the case since 2011. It is not a blanket case and all governors’ offices cannot take advantage of this scenario,” pointed out Reddy.
While claiming that it does not come under the RTI Act, in the same letter, the governor’s office informed the applicant what action the office had taken with regard to his queries. Under Section 4(1)(b), a public authority has to declare particulars of duties, functions and records held by them, monthly remuneration received by each employee etc among several other pointers. “If the governor’s office is not a public authority, let them declare where the funds come from and on what grounds they require this immunity,” added Reddy.