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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

CIC to decide if MPs/MLAs should reply to RTI queries

Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2008 Aug 13; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 13; Himanshi Dhawan | TNN

New Delhi: Are Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi expected to reply to Right to Information queries that are addressed to them in their capacity as Members of Parliament? In a decision that could have far-reaching ramifications, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has decided to ascertain if elected representatives like an MP or MLA can be recognised as a ‘‘public authority’’ in his or her own right.
This follows a growing number of complaints that MPs and MLAs have not been responding to RTI queries regarding their work as public representatives.
UP resident Awadesh Mishra had sought information from Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi related to recommendations made by the latter on assistance to NGOs. When Mishra did not receive any reply, he approached the Lok Sabha secretariat which held that the MP was not a public authority as defined under the RTI Act. The secretariat said the information was not held by it and could only be made available by the MP.
Similar requests for information have been filed by Lucknow residents Girish Chandra Mishra and Radhey Shyam with Rae Bareli MP and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Delhi resident Sartaj Ahmed had sought information from his area MLA Saheb Singh Chauhan regarding development work in his constituency.
However, when there was no satisfactory reply to their queries, the respondents approached the CIC. The commission, on its part, has recognized that a MP has been given specific authority by the Constitution in return for which he receives public funds.
The information watchdog has issued a public notice for opinions on the issue adding that it would take a ‘‘view to decide whether the information sought by these applicants can qualify as information sought under the RTI Act’’. The submissions are expected to be given by August 30 and a hearing is likely to be held in September.

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