Are MPs, lawmakers public authorities - commission to decide

September 18th, 2008 - 8:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiNew Delhi, Sep 18 (IANS) The Central Information Commission (CIC) has decided to take help of eminent jurists and senior advocates to decide whether public representatives such as MPs and lawmakers could be declared public authorities under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. A hearing in this regard took place Monday at the CIC office after receiving complaints from several RTI applicants that public representative such as MPs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and Delhi lawmaker Sahib Singh Chauhan have not responded to their RTI applications in which they had sought information from them.

CIC had also asked for submissions from people or organisations on the issue.

Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan and several CIC officials were present during the Sep 15 hearing.

“The hearing was held to understand the complexities of the issue. The CIC has now decided to approach eminent jurists and senior advocates for their view in the matter,” senior advocate Prashant Bhushan told IANS.

“It is important and a complex issue because if MP’s and MLA’s will be declared public authorities under the RTI act, they would have to appoint their PIOs (public information officers) and first appellate authority,” Bhushan added.

The CIC will now issue a new notice and would invite views of experts such as Soli Sorabjee and Fali Nariman.

“The notice will be issued very soon and the hearing will take place nearly after one and a half month. This issue is going to have far reaching consequences,” said a senior CIC official.

“It is just like walking on a double edged sword. The decision will not be taken in haste. If MP’s and MLA’s would be declared public authorities, then the local councillors, gram panchayat members and gram sabha members will also become public authorities,” the CIC official added.

In such a case, they all would have to appoint PIOs and appellate authority as per the RTI act which the CIC official believes is a nearly impossible task.

“However, there is some information which only a MP and a MLA can reveal. So, there is an urgent need for developing a mechanism, which provides a way to procure that information,” the official added.

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