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Attorney General’s office different from other public offices, Union tells Delhi HC

Smrithi Suresh

With the Attorney General’s office under the RTI scanner, the Union Government told the Delhi High Court that the AG’s office, while performing duties under the Constitution, was not performing a public function.

Lawyers outside the Delhi High Court
Lawyers outside the Delhi High Court

The submissions came in the background of an appeal filed by the Union Law Ministry against a Single Bench order of the Delhi High Court which had held that the AG’s office was a ‘public authority’ under the RTI Act.

Standing Counsel for the Union Government, Jasmeet Singh argued that the AG shared a fiduciary relationship with the Government and his duty was restricted to advising and defending the Goverment’s actions in Court.

“The AG’s office is very different from any other public office firstly because of the [fiduciary] relationship he shares with the government and also because of the nature of [confidential] information that rests with him.”

ASG Sanjay Jain, who built upon his submissions from the last hearing, argued that the judgment of the Single Bench had not referred to Section 4 of the RTI Act, which listed out certain attributes of public authorities.

“[The] definition of a public authority under Section 2(h) of the Act draws parallel flavor from Section 4. As much as I agree with the learned judge that the AG’s office is contemplated under the Constitution and that the Constitution itself defines the work of the Attorney General, it should additionally be noted that Section 4 provisions must also transpose themselves with the scheme of Article 76 (2) because the Constitution itself cannot be ignored.

By no stretch of imagination, does Section 4(1)(a) includes the office of the AG.”

The Bench seemed to agree with the submissions made by Jain and Singh when it observed that ‘it was apparent that the AG’s functions had to be discharged by him, on his own’ and that he could not delegate his duties.

After hearing the Union’s submissions at length, the Bench adjourned the matter to February 15.

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