Recently the Delhi High Court ruled that the office of the Attorney General of India (AGI) does not come under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act as it is not a “public authority”. In a 2015 judgement from a single judge bench, the office of AGI was declared a public authority as he/she was appointed under the Constitution and performed public duties as detailed in Article 76(2).
What constitutes a Public Authority?
A “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self- government established or constituted –
- By or under the Constitution;
- By any other law made by Parliament;
- By any other law made by State Legislature;
- By notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any –(i) Body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
(ii) Non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.
Why was AGI declared as not being a public authority?
As AGI is appointed under Article 76 of the constitution to provide advice on legal matters to the government, the relationship between AG and Government is of a lawyer and client. The essential services provided by the AGI are to advice the Government upon legal matters and perform other duties such of a legal character as may be assigned.
As the functions performed by AGI are similar to an advocate AGI cannot put in public domain his opinions or materials forwarded to him. AGI maintains a fiduciary (legal and trustworthy) relationship with the Government of India and does not occupy an office of profit and hence cannot be held to be a “public authority” within the meaning of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.