Wednesday, August 09, 2017

against removal of ministers' contact information from TN Govt website

Bar & Bench: Chennai: Wednesday, August 09, 2017.
A writ petition protesting the removal of contact information of ministers from the Tamil Nadu government official website ( was taken up for hearing yesterday by the First Bench of the Madras High Court.
The petition has been filed by a member of the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly from Madurai.
It has been contended by the petitioner that the information pertaining to official phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the state’s council of ministers, which was ordinarily available on the website, was abruptly taken down without reason on July 22. Considering the spirit of proactive disclosure, which underlies the citizen’s right to information, as well as its statutory embodiment, the petitioner has averred that this action is in contravention of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and is hence illegal.
The said information, being in the nature of official information, does not fall under any exemption category. Further, it was argued before the bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sunder, that as per Section 4 (2) (ix) of the RTI Act, there lies a statutory duty on the government to publish a directory of information pertaining to public officials and employees.
The petitioner has also contended that impugned action adversely affects good governance as well as tenets such as transparency and accountability, which are essential to a democracy. On these grounds, it has been prayed that the Court declares the impugned action illegal and void, and further that the respondent-state be directed to upload the removed information.
On hearing initial arguments, the Court raised questions as to what information would have been envisioned by the usage of the term directory in Section 4 (2) (ix) of the RTI Act. Further, it has given time to the counsel appearing for the respondents to obtain instructions regarding the reasons for removal of the said contact information from the government website.