President's office claims immunity from RTI

President's office claims immunity from RTI

Maintaining that such a communication is "protected" from disclosure, the President's Secretariat has raised the issue before the Delhi High Court in a writ petition challenging the CIC directive on the disclosure of the communication between the then President A P J Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the Padma Awards.

"The issue of law which arises pertains to the communication entered into or which emanates from the President's Secretariat and the President of India; whether such communication, material and information is protected by the operation of Article 74 of the Constitution of India or whether...open to disclosure in terms of the Right to Information Act, 2005," the secretariat has pleaded in its petition.

The communication between the Council of Ministers and the President is protected under Article 74 of the Constitution of India and hence cannot be subject matter of disclosure, the President's office said.

The CIC had ordered the part disclosure of communication between the two leaders in which President Kalam reportedly has raised question marks over some of the people considered for the Padma awards. The communication were sought by activist S C Agrawal in his RTI application.

"The CIC has pronounced an order on a constitutional issue, being the scope and operation of Article 74(1) which in the respectful submission..., it lacks jurisdiction to pronounced upon. The CIC is an authority whose powers and jurisdiction are conscribed by the provisions of the RTI Act, and in the present matter, the CIC has traversed far beyond the same," the President's office said in the plea.

It said calling records of the President's Secretariat or the President of India would "amount to treating the President of India as a party before a court/authority is in the teeth of Article 361 of the Constitution of India which confers an immunity on the President of India from being answerable to any court of law for the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of the office or for any act done or purported to have by her/him in the exercise and performance of those powers and duties."

It said orders passed by the CIC have "grave and far reaching" ramifications on the manner in which information, communication and material emanating from or available in the President's Secretariat.

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