The Gujarat Legislative Assembly has opposed a PIL seeking live telecast of its proceedings and sharing of other documents online, saying it is its discretion to determine what information it deems fit to be published.
During a hearing on Tuesday in the Gujarat High Court, the Assembly secretariat told a division bench of Justices R.M. Chhaya and Nirzar S. Desai that there is no legal duty on its part to comply with obligations under the RTI Act to disclose and regularly update its proceedings and other documents, as sought in a PIL filed by one Neeta Hardikar.
The PIL has sought the court’s direction to the Assembly secretariat to disclose and regularly update in Gujarati and English, on its home website, information on live and old telecast and transcripts of its proceedings.
It also asked to disclose details of papers to be laid in the House, private members’ resolutions, zero hour proceedings, list of questions and their answers, texts of debates, legislations, information on House committees, rules, regulations, instructions, and other documents.
The Assembly secretariat in an affidavit submitted to the court said, “The respondent has the privilege to control and regulate the publication of its proceedings and document and the source of the same is found in the second part of Article 194 (3) of Constitution... Public authority is not legally obliged to provide any information that is covered by exemptions under section 8 of the Right to Information Act.”
“It is the discretion of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly to determine what information it deems fit to be published,” the affidavit said.
It noted that Article 194(2) of the Constitution confers unfettered absolute immunity to members for anything said in the legislature and to any person publishing any report, paper, proceedings under the authority of any House of the Legislature. Article 194(3) is particularly relevant in the present case as it provides for ancillary privileges, it said.
At the same time, it said certain information is being provided on the new website, which is in development stage.
In the ‘notice board’ section of the website, there are several categories under which vital documents have been uploaded in both English and Gujarati. Speeches of the governor and budget speech of the finance minister are telecast live on a regular basis, it said.
“The respondent has made sincere efforts to publish relevant information on its website and telecasts significant events on Gujarati channels. It continues to make further additions to the list of documents that have been uploaded on the website,” it said.