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CIC requests RS Chairman to decide issue of privilege

Last Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 16:26

New Delhi: The Central Information
Commission has asked Rajya Sabha Chairman to take a decision
on whether disclosure of file notes, under the RTI Act, on
notices and questions received from members will be a breach
of Parliamentary privilege.

The transparency panel, while deciding the case of an
RTI applicant who had sought to know questions and discussions
that took place in the Rajya Sabha against the Central
Information Commission, has referred the issue of privilege to
the Chairman of the House.

Applicant Anita Chabra had also demanded note sheets
prepared by the Secretariat on these questions and notices for
discussions received from members. The information was denied
by the Secretariat citing section 8(1)(c) of the RTI Act which
exempts from disclosure information which would cause a
breach of privilege of Parliament or the State Legislature.

"This Commission realises that there is no exact
codification of Parliamentary Privilege. In view of this the
Commission requests the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha to
consider whether giving this information would be a breach of
privilege of the Parliament," Information Commissioner
Shailesh Gandhi said.

He directed that disclosure of information would depend
on the decision of Chairman Rajya Sabha.

The Rajya Sabha Secretariat, while declining to disclose
the information, had said it works on the behalf of the
Chairman and decisions like notices received from the MPs are
taken in terms of the Rules of Procedure of the House.

"...and in this process the Secretariat is exercising
the powers and functions of Chairman Rajya Sabha. The
decisions arrived at in terms of the said rules are privileged
and protected from disclosure into the public domain," the
Secretariat said.

It said the control on the business of the house falls
with the jurisdiction of the house itself and this is the
Parliament Privilege.

"This being so, it is not felt appropriate to divulge
the decision taking process in relation to the business of the
house," it said.

Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said, "This is
an interesting proposition but if this is to be accepted,
various protection given to certain bodies would be extended
far beyond its intended purpose."

He pointed out when any institution or person denies a
citizen`s fundamental right, great care needs to be taken.

"However, the majesty and privilege of the Parliament
also have to be respected with equal care for democracy to
function properly...If the Honourable Chairman comes to the
conclusion that giving this information will not be a
breach of privilege of Parliament the PIO is directed to
provide the information," Gandhi held.


First Published: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 16:26

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