The Delhi High Court on Friday ruled that the office of the Attorney General of India does not come within the ambit of the Right to Infomation Act, saying its “predominant function” is to give advice on legal matters to the government.
A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath said that the Attorney General appears in court on behalf of the government of India and has fiduciary relationship with the government and his opinions cannot be put in the public domain.
The court set aside a March 2015 verdict by a single judge, which said the office of the top law officer was answerable to public under the transparency law as he performs public functions and his appointment is governed by the Constitution.
“Essentially, the function being that akin to an advocate of the government of India, he is in a fiduciary relationship with the government of India and cannot put in the public domain his opinions or the materials forwarded to him by the government of India,” a bench headed by the High Court Chief Justice said while reversing the earlier order.
The judgment added: “The essential services provided by the AG are to advice the government on legal matters and perform other duties such of a legal character as may be assigned. The AG is not a functionary reposed with any administrative or other authority which effect the rights or liabilities of persons.”
Under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, any government office or authority or any organisation substantially funded by the government comes under the purview of the transparency law.
The court’s order came on appeals filed by the government against the single-judge order.
Two pleas were filed by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal and R.K. Jain before the single judge, seeking to declare the Attorney General’s office as a public authority under the RTI Act.
One of the pleas had also challenged the Central Information Commission’s decision holding that the office was not covered under the RTI Act.