UT Administrator empowered to make rules under RTI Act: High Court

Holding that the Chandigarh Administrator is empowered to make rules under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday disposed of a petition filed by social activist Hemant Goswami.

The judgment assumes significance as the high court has held that the Administration is well within its rights to determine fees for an application demanding information under RTI. However, the high court has directed the Centre and UT Administration to submit as to what steps have been taken to ensure awareness regarding RTI Act in the city. Authorities have also been directed to file a status report.

The writ was filed on the issue of promulgation of separate rules under the RTI Act, by which the UT Administration had, in 2009, increased the RTI application fee and the cost of documents, to be obtained under RTI, by 500 per cent.

The petition stated that the action of promulgating new RTI rules under Section 28 of the RTI Act by the UT Administrator was illegal and creates a parallel governance system outside the purview of the law established by the constitution and the Parliament.

"Such action is against the spirit of the constitution and the RTI Act. By deliberately extending his brief, the administrator and the home secretary of Chandigarh have clearly bypassed the provisions made by the Parliament and also bypassed the powers of the Parliament," argued Hemant Goswami, while adding, "The said action has the effect of reducing the faith of people in the system of governance and attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established by the Indian law."

Contending the non-applicability of the provisions under which the new rules have been made, the petition further claimed, "It is clear from the layout of the RTI Act as well as the manner and procedure laid out for making rules, that the rules made by the 'President of India', the 'Governor of a State', the 'Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the High Court', the 'Speaker' and the 'Administrator appointed under Article 239' will apply only for the specified office of the 'competent authority' and shall not be applicable for the rest of the government."

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