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The Bombay High Court recently held that Right to Information (RTI) is implicit and inbuilt in the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
While making this observation, the Court directed the state government to fill up vacant posts of its staff, including Information Officers in Maharashtra.
A Division Bench of Justices SC Dharmadhikari and RI Chagla passed the order in a PIL filed by Public Concern for Governance Trust, seeking an effective enforcement and implementation of the RTI Act.
The Court noted,
“From time to time certain orders were passed in this PIL to ensure that this enactment does not become a dead letter. The enactment is in larger public interest. It is not as if the right to information is a right derived by the citizens from the RTI Act, 2005. Be it known to everybody that right to information is implicit and inbuilt in the right and freedom guaranteed to a citizen under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.”
The Bench went on to observe,
“The right to free speech and expression includes within it the right to obtain information. That is how this constitutionally recognised and permitted right is made meaningful and its enforcement is now serving a larger public purpose. It is only the enforcement machinery which is created by the RTI Act, 2005.”
During the hearing, it was submitted that the state government was handicapped for want of staff and owing to the absence of regulations to fill up vacancies.
After perusing the material on record, the Division Bench noted that Recruitment Rules of 2018 have been framed on account of the present PIL and relevant directions of the Supreme Court of India. In light of the said Recruitment Rules, the state government assured the Court that it would fill up the vacancies arising from time to time.
It was further submitted by the state that apart from exceptions carved out by the law, information will be provided in a timely and orderly manner. The Bench was informed that out of the sanctioned 138 posts, 124 have been filled and 14 are vacant, for which the process will be completed as per the Rules.
Concluding the proceedings, the Court expressed hope and trust that the state would make further progress. The matter has been posted for further hearing on January 14, 2020.
The petitioner Trust was represented by advocates Jamshed Mistry and Dipesh Siroya. Advocates PP Kakade and BV Samant appeared for state government.
[Read Order dated December 3, 2019]