NEW DELHI: Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan today told a parliamentary panel that the alleged premature disclosure of a CAG report on allocation of D6 block in KG basin was necessary in public interest and the breach of privilege notice issued to him in this regard was misconceived in law.
Appearing before the panel, Bhushan said the report in this case was a draft audit report of the Comptroller and Auditor General prepared prior to submission of its final report. Noting that a CAG report is not a part of parliamentary proceedings, he said merely because it is required under law to be tabled before it does not make it the property of Parliament or its committee.
Sources said the parliamentary committee is likely to seek legal opinion on how to go about in this case after Bhushan's submission. "It is clear that the disclosure of the report has not impeded the functioning of Parliament in any way and therefore it cannot constitute breach of privilege. "A CAG report is not a part of parliamentary proceedings or its committee; rather it is an autonomous body created by the Constitution. Merely because it is required under law to be tabled in Parliament does not make it the report of Parliament or its committee," Bhushan said in his response to the notice by the Privileges Committee.
On February 3, the Privileges Committee of Rajya Sabha had asked Bhushan to appear before it today in connection with a breach of privilege notice against him for the alleged premature disclosure of a CAG report on allocation of D6 Block in KG Basin. Citing a Supreme Court judgement, Bhushan said the court has also held that parliamentary privileges would include only those allowing parliament to function without impediment.
"It is made clear that privileges are available only insofar as they are necessary in order that the House may freely perform its functions... Privileges do not extend to the activities undertaken outside the House on which the legislative provisions would apply without any differentiation," Bhushan said. Quoting an order by the Central Information Commission (Manohar Parrikar & Ors. V. Accountant General, Goa) order dated June 10, 2010, Bhushan said "the disclosure of the draft report or even the final report of the CAG would not amount to breach of parliamentary privileges."
"The same view was taken by the Attorney General in 2012 when the issue of premature disclosure of the CAG reports or its draft was raised by the CAG with the government," he said. He said the motion of parliamentary privileges has a colonial origin from British parliament.
"The Constitution has empowered its citizens with fundamental rights, including the right to free speech. The Supreme Court has held this to include the right to information holding that citizens have the right to know what their representatives are doing in every aspect. "It is clear that the disclosure of the report has not impeded the functioning of parliament in any way and therefore it cannot constitute breach of privilege," Bhushan said. He added that in this case, the draft CAG report in question contained important information on KG D-6 gas basin and the cause of loss to the public exchequer.