29 Oct 2010

Information relating to gambling and lottery legislations cannot be disclosed: Government in response to an RTI query

I had filed an application under the Right to Information Act (RTI) with the Union Ministry of Law and Justice, Department of Legal Affairs to bring clarity and clear confusion on different aspects of gambling and lottery legislations. However the Public Information officer (PIO) refused to disclose any information.

Details of the information sought

1) Kindly give full details regarding the list of laws (including State and Central legislations, notifications, rules, bye-laws, ordinances etc.) regulating gambling and lotteries in India.

2) Kindly give details regarding the laws (including State and Central legislations, notifications, rules, bye-laws, ordinances etc.) which either legalise or ban online gambling. What is the position of law on financing/participating in online gambling, including gambling on websites based outside India in all the States of India (individually)?

3) Kindly give details of any notifications/advise/references to advise/notes/ reports given by your department to any other department, ministry or organisation with regard to recommendations or any other information which your department may have relating to passing, modifying, repealing or amending any legislation or changing/amending any existing legal provision on gambling, betting and lotteries, including online gambling.

4) Are there any special provisions created for the State of Sikkim to conduct/authorise the conduct of lotteries? If yes, kindly give full details. What are the legal provisions for allowing casinos, gambling and betting in the State of Sikkim?

5) What is the legal provision that allows lotteries from the Kingdom of Bhutan to be sold in India? Are lotteries from companies based outside India allowed to be sold/marketed/promoted in India? Kindly give full details of provisions regarding the same.

6) What is the difference between betting, gambling and lotteries? What opinion, if any has been given by your department in that regard?

7) Kindly give all relevant documents which your department may have, regarding any recommendation, report, note, references to advise or any other information relating to the amendment, modification or repeal of Section 30 of the Indian Contract Act, 1860.

Reasons given for denial of information

The PIO while denying information gave two reasons for denying information:

1) Information sought amounts to legal opinion and is not covered within the ambit of information under Section 2 (f) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.

2) The subject matter of the information does not fall under the purview of the Department of Legal Affairs.

Why the denial of information is unfair

The reasons given by the PIO for denying information is unjust and against public interest.

Firstly, the details sought by the RTI application does not ask for the legal opinion of the Department of Legal Affairs but seeks opinion and advices given by the Legal affairs department to other Departments and Ministries: Opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, reports, logbooks, electronic records etc. are all included under the definition of information in Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act. Thus the PIO has misinterpreted my queries and wrongly construed my questions on the opinion rendered by the concerned department as asking for a legal opinion. And even if certain questions may not fall under the ambit of information under the RTI that does not absolve the PIO from providing details relating to other questions.

The second contention of the matter not falling under the purview of the Legal Affairs Department also seems unsatisfactory. Under Section 6 (3) of the RTI Act, it is the duty of the concerned department to transfer the application to other public authorities in case the information is held by another public authority or the subject matter of the information is closely connected with any other public authority.

Further, one of the primary functions of the Department of Legal Affairs is to advise and recommend reforms in legislations to other Ministries and Departments. The Legal Affairs department is also responsible for writing consultation papers and suggesting reforms. (As per their website http://lawmin.nic.in/more.htm)

What next?

I am now going to appeal to the Central Information Commission requesting the release of the information. The information sought by me may be essential in clearing doubts regarding the legality of online gambling and certain dubious issues on gambling and lottery legislations. It must also be noted that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of this information. I hope that the response to the RTI query will clear many ambiguities and confusions. Will post subsequent developments and responses.

Sincerely hoping to receive your wholehearted support in my endeavour to bring about reforms, transparency, accountability and clarity…

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