Speaker disagrees with CJI on RTI Act
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee says the Act is a mechanism for the people’s constitutional right to know. Nagendar Sharma reports.delhi Updated: Apr 22, 2008 01:54 IST
Disagreeing with Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan’s statement that the Right to Information (RTI) Act did not apply to his office, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee on Monday said the Act was a mechanism for the people’s constitutional right to know.
Asked to respond on the CJI’s comments that constitutional offices were out of the purview of the RTI Act, the Speaker said, “As a constitutional functionary, my view is that nothing should be held back from the people, except on matters related to country’s security.”
“I have the highest regard for the hon’ble CJI. However, in a democracy, if information is denied, there is scope for speculation which may affect credibility.”
On Saturday, the CJI had said his office was not covered under the RTI Act, since it was not applicable to constitutional authorities. Questioning the argument of constitutional offices being out of RTI purview, Chatterjee said, “Everything is under the Constitution. The question is whether people are entitled to know. The constitutional provision for their right to know has been recognised by the RTI Act, which was implemented to enforce this right.”
Asked about the reluctance of Supreme Court and High Court judges to make public the details of their wealth, the Speaker replied, “I would only speak for the House”. In a departure from the old practice, the Lok Sabha has decided to provide the details sought by RTI applicants on the assets owned by MPs, he said.
“Elected members are supposed to provide details of their wealth in a sealed cover to the Speaker’s office. These are to be kept confidential till the time there was a pressing need to open them. However, not going by technicalities, I have allowed these details to be provided under the RTI,” the Speaker said.
In a bid to make the functioning of parliament more transparent, Chatterjee said he had even proposed to allow the media access to parliamentary standing committee proceedings.
“However there were some reservations, and there has been no consensus among the MPs on opening up of these proceedings to the media, therefore it could not be done so far,” he said. The efforts in this direction, would, however, continue, the Speaker said.