The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the Bombay High Court order asking the Goa Raj Bhawan to make public the Governor’s report to the Centre on political situation of the State during July-August 2007.
While staying the high court direction to make public the report under the Right to Information Act, a bench headed by Justice Dalveer Bhandari also halted further proceedings in the high court on the case in which the Governor’s office has been declared to be under the ambit of transparency law.
The court passed the order on an appeal filed by Goa government challenging the high court’s decision and contending that the Governor’s office does not fall under the purview of the RTI Act and the confidential report to the Centre cannot be made public.
While staying the order, the apex court bench, also comprising justices T S Thakur and Dipak Misra, said the state has raised an important question of law, which needs to be “examined".
The Goa government has challenged the decision saying the Governor was not a public authority under the RTI Act as he was the formal and constitutional head of the government.
The case began with BJP leader Manohar Parrikar seeking from the Goa Raj Bhawan under the RTI Act a copy of the Governor’s report to the Union Home Minister on the political situation in the state during July 24—August 14, 2007.
The Governor’s principal information officer, however, declined to provide the same under the RTI Act, but the Goa State Information Commission, on an appeal by Parrikar, directed Raj Bhawan to provide the report to him.
The Governor’s PIO moved the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court against the state information commission order. But the high court too upheld the Information Commission’s order.
The division bench of the high court, on November 14, said, “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.”
The decision of the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court to make public governor’s report to applicants under RTI Act has legal and political repercussions as the Union Cabinet headed by the prime minister relies on the secret report sent by the Governor to the President as a precursor to action under Article 356 of the Constitution for imposition of Central rule.