New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today stayed till April 27, its single judge order that Attorney General of India's (AGI) office is a public authority falling under the ambit of Right to Information Act.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice RS Endlaw said that single judge's findings "require consideration", so "We will hear the appeal filed by Ministry of Law and Justice."
It, however, said, "We have to stay the order of the single judge, otherwise the purpose will not be served." The court listed the matter for hearing on April 27.
The court's interim order was passed on the appeal moved by the Ministry against the March 10 order of a single judge bench bringing the AGI's office under the ambit of RTI Act as the top law officer performed public functions and his appointment was governed by the Constitution.
The counsel, appearing for the Ministry and the AGI, sought setting aside of the earlier order saying it was "bad in law".
During the brief hearing, the advocate representing RTI Activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal, on whose petition the single judge had passed the order, opposed the Ministry's request to stay the decision saying it was "a clear-cut and well-thought decision".
In its order, earlier this month, the single judge bench had declared AGI's office as a public authority, saying he performs the functions as are required by virtue of Article 76(2) of the Constitution of India and had set aside a December 2012 CIC order that AGI is not a public authority.
The court had also refused to consider the government's argument that there was a practical difficulty in providing information under the Act as the office of the AGI does not have the requisite infrastructure.
It had also remanded back to the Central Information Commission (CIC), the pleas of RTI activists Agarwal and RK Jain, who had sought that the office of the AGI be declared as a public authority under the transparency law.
The court had directed the AGI to reconsider the RTI application of Jain as his plea for information was denied on basis of the CIC order that the office of AGI is not a public authority.
The CIC, in its 2012 order, had expressed the opinion that the AGI was only a person and could not be considered as an "authority" and, therefore, fell outside sweep of section 2(h) of the RTI Act.
Section 2(h) of the Act defines 'public authority'. While setting aside the CIC order, the court had noted that the expression 'authority' under RTI Act would include all persons or bodies that have been conferred power to perform the functions entrusted to them and those performing advisory functions cannot be excluded.
"The office of the AGI is an office established under the Constitution of India; the incumbent appointed to that office discharges functions as provided under the Constitution ...Even in common parlance, the AGI has always been understood as a constitutional authority," it had said, while disposing of Aggarwal and Jain's pleas.