Bar Associations covered under the purview of RTI Act

Central Information Commission (CIC): CIC has ruled that Bar Associations are constituted under a law made by Parliament, i.e., the Advocates Act, 1961 and hence they come under the purview of the RTI Act. The order of the Commission came upon an appeal filed by an RTI activist who sought information regarding the number of complaints against the advocates, number of disposed of cases, number of advocates who had violated the provisions of Advocates Act, number and percentage of complaints disposed of within a year of the lodging of the complaint, etc. practising/registered with the Bar Associations located at Rewari, Faridabad, Punchkula and Gurgaon, for at least 3 years. He also asked that how many disciplinary cases against the advocates were sent to the Bar Council of Punjab & Haryana, at Chandigarh by the respective Bar Associations located at Rewari, Faridabad, Punchkula and Gurgaon. The appellant alleged that having received no information from the Public Authority regarding the matter, he approached the Commission after exhausting the first appeal. Before the Commission, appellant contended that as the Bar Council is a statutory body constituted under Advocates Act 1961, to protect ethical standards of Advocates and admonish the members for misconduct, the information about this core function of Bar Council cannot be denied to the appellant as it does not attract any exemption under RTI Act. After perusing material on record and hearing both the parties, CIC observed, “Though Bar Associations are different from Bar Councils, they are also constituted under a law made by Parliament, i.e., the Advocates Act, 1961. They too have a duty to inform the people about their activities.” While rendering relief to the appellant, Commission directed the Bar Council of Punjab & Haryana, Chandigarh to furnish the required information to the appellant. CIC further directed that the action taken under Section 35 by the Bar Council should be published under Section 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act on their own without anybody need to see it. The Commission further directed the Presidents of the Bar Associations at Rewari, Faridabad, Punchkula and Gurgaon, to provide copies of complaints against, if any, forwarded by them to the Bar Council of Punjab & Haryana at Chandigarh. [Harinder Dhingra v. Bar Associations, Rewari, Faridabad, Punchkula, Gurgaon, 2016 SCC OnLine CIC 2207 , decided on March 17, 2016]

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