The Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly recently passed a resolution calling for the division of Uttar Pradesh [U.P] into four States. But the procedure for formation of new States laid down in Article 3 of the Constitution provides that a State has no say over the formation of new States beyond communicating its views to Parliament. Article 3 assigns to Parliament the power to enact legislation for the formation of new States. Parliament may create new States in a number of ways, namely by (i) separating territory from any State, (ii) uniting two or more States, (iii) uniting parts of States and (iv) uniting any territory to a part of any State. Parliament’s power under Article 3 extends to increasing or diminishing the area of any State and altering the boundaries or name of any State. Two checks constrain Parliament’s power to enact legislation for the formation of new States. Firstly, a bill calling for formation of new States may be introduced in either House of Parliament only on the recommendation of the President. Secondly, such a bill must be referred by the President to the concerned State Legislature for expressing its views to Parliament if it contains provisions which affect the areas, boundaries or name of that State. As can be seen, the only role that the U.P. State Legislature [the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council] will play in any future formation of new States is when the President calls for its views to be placed before Parliament. Parliament will not be bound by these views in the process of enacting legislation for the formation of new States.
The Right to Information Act, 2005, contains several exemptions which enable public authorities to deny requests for information. RTI Annual Return Reports for 2005-2010 give detailed information on use of these exemptions to reject RTI requests. Exemptions to requests for information under the Act are primarily embodied in three sections – section 8, section 11, and section 24. Section 8 lists nine specific exemptions ranging from sovereignty of India to trade secrets. Sec 11 provides protection to confidential third party information. Sec 24 exempts certain security and intelligence organizations from the purview of the Act. Of these, sections 8(1)(j), 8(1)(d) and 8(1)(e) are respectively the three most frequently invoked exemptions for the period 2005-2010, cumulatively amounting to almost three-fourths of all exemptions invoked. Section 8(1)(j) provides protection to personal information of individuals from disclosure in the absence of larger public interest. This exemption was invoked over 30,000 times during 2005-2010, which amounts to almost 40% of all invocations of exemptions. Among ministries, the Finance Ministry has invoked this sub-section the most, followed by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Section 8(1)(d) provides protection to trade secrets and intellectual property from disclosure in the absence of larger public interest. This exemption was invoked almost 15,000 times during 2005-2010, which constitutes 18% of all invocations of exemptions. As with sec 8(1)(j), the Finance Ministry has utilized this exemption the most, followed by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. Section 8(1)(e) provides protection to information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship from disclosure in the absence of larger public interest. This exemption was invoked 11,639 times during 2005-2010, which accounts for almost 15% of all invocations of exemptions. The Finance Ministry has invoked this exemption more than any other ministry, both overall and for each individual year during 2005-2010. The Finance Ministry accounts for more than 50% of all invocations of this exemption, having invoked it over 6000 times. The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is second, with a little over 1000 invocations of this exemption. Ministry-wise Rejections As discussed above, Finance Ministry has a large number of rejections, perhaps because of the larger number of requests that it receives. It is also possible that the Finance Ministry receives a larger number of requests related to private and confidential information (such as Income Tax returns) as well as those which are held in a fiduciary capacity (such as details of accounts in nationalised banks). Adjusted for the number of requests received, the Finance Ministry tops the rejection rate at 24%, followed by the Prime Minister's Office (12%) and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (11%).
The Gujarat High Court is hearing an important case related to the appointment of the Lokayukta in Gujarat. The issue is whether the Governor can appoint the Lokayukta at his discretion or whether appointment can be made only upon obtaining the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers led by the Chief Minister.
During the period 2006-2010, the Gujarat state government submitted names of two prospective appointees for the post of Lokayukta to the Governor. But no appointment was made during this period. On August 26, 2011 the Governor appointed retired judge R.A.Mehta as Lokayukta, whose name was not among those submitted by the state government. The Gujarat state government moved the High Court to quash the appointment on the ground that the Governor made the appointment without the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers led by the Chief Minister.
Section 3 of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, provides in part that “the Governor shall by warrant under his hand and seal, appoint a person to be known as Lokayukta”. The Governor acted under this section to make the appointment of Lokayukta. However, the state government has argued that section 3 has to be understood in light of Article 163(1) of the Constitution. Article 163(1) provides that the Governor shall be aided and advised in the exercise of his functions by a Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head. Thus, as per this line of argument, the Governor violated the provision of Article 163(1) when she failed to take the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers led by the Chief Minister before exercising the function of appointing the Lokayukta.
At the time of writing this post, news reports suggested that the two judges hearing the case are divided over the issue. It remains to be seen whether this issue will be referred to a larger bench. The outcome of this case could have wider implications on the constitutional role of governors if it sets guideposts on the extent to which they act independent of the advice of the council of ministers.