SC can't deny info if plea filed under RTI Act: CIC
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has overturned its own decision and ruled that the Supreme Court cannot deny information on judicial matters if an applicant has asked for it under the Right to Information Act.
As of now, information disclosure related to a person's own case could be applied to the Supreme Court under the RTI Act. But in case the information related to judicial matters of a third party, the SC had ruled that application must be made under court rules. Rule 2 of the SC Rules says the applicant must establish "good cause" before disclosure is made, which according to the CIC goes against the RTI Act.
In his order, information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said that he disagreed with former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah's decision.
His order said, "This bench further rules that all citizens have the right to access information under Section 3 of the RTI Act and PIOs shall provide the information sought to the citizens, subject always to the provisions of the RTI Act only."
He added, "It is the citizen's prerogative to decide under which mechanism, that is under the method prescribed by the public authority or the RTI Act, he would like to obtain the information."
The decision came after Gurgaon resident R S Mishra had asked for information related to letters he had written to the SC. The apex court had denied the information on the argument that the SC had a specific provision by which information was furnished under Order XII of the SC Rules and hence, information relating to judicial matters could be provided only under that provision. The SC PIO further argued that since the then chief information commissioner had upheld this contention, their arguments before this commission were already covered under the said decisions.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that in a conflict between the Right to Information Act and the internal rules of a Public Authority, the RTI Act must prevail. It would prevail even if the internal rules pertain to the Supreme Court.
CIC Shailesh Gandhi passed this order in a case, in which information on certain judicial records was sought from the Supreme Court under the RTI Act. The First Appellate Authority (FFA) in the court held that any information on judicial records could be accessed only under Order XII of the Supreme Court rules.
The judicial records pertained to letters written to judges by R.S. Misra, appellant in the case. Mr. Misra, who wrote the letters in connection with a Special Leave Petition filed by him, wanted to know their status and filed an application under the RTI Act.
Mr. Gandhi held that the Supreme Court could not cite internal rules to deny information if it had been sought under the RTI Act. Further that information could be denied only if the information sought was prohibited under the RTI Act itself.
"The right to information is a fundamental right of the citizen of India. This has been clearly recognised by the Supreme Court in several decisions and subsequently codified by Parliament in 2005. The RTI Act was enacted with the spirit of ensuring transparency...Section 3 of the RTI Act lays down that subject to the provisions of the RTI Act, all citizens shall have the right to information… Further Section 22 of the RTI Act expressly provides that the provisions of the RTI Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923, and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than the RTI Act. In other words, where there is any inconsistency in a law as regards furnishing of information, such law shall be superseded by the RTI Act. Insertion of a non-obstante clause in Section 22 of the RTI Act was a conscious choice of Parliament to safeguard the citizens' fundamental right to information…If the PIO has received a request for information under the RTI Act, the information shall be provided to the applicant as per the provisions of the RTI Act and any denial of the same must be in accordance with Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act only.."
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