RTI can be used even if info available through other means: HC

RTI Act can be used to access information which is available through any other route, Delhi High Court has ordered.

New Delhi: RTI Act can be used to access information which is available through any other route, Delhi High Court has ordered.

In a recent order, Justice Vibhu Bakhru allowed a petition challenging a CIC decision which had directed withholding the disclosure of communication between Urban Development Ministry officials and those of CBI--an exempted organisation--in a corruption case.

"The writ petition is allowed. The impugned order passed by the CIC is set aside and the matter is remanded to CIC to consider it afresh in view of aforesaid observations," Justice Vibhu Bakhru said.

Giving his observations on the matter, Justice Bakhru clarified whether the information was relevant or necessary to the applicant, was not germane in the context of the Act.

The judge said the fact that the petitioner has access to the material relied upon by the prosecution does not prevent him from seeking that information, which he considers necessary for his defence.

He also set aside the order given by Information Commissioner M A Khan Yusufi saying section 8(1)(h) of the Act--which allows an organisation to withhold such information that impedes the process of investigation, apprehension and prosecution--cannot be imposed without giving proper reasons to justify the denial.

Earlier too, the High Court in the 2007 Bhagat Singh case had clarified that merely saying that disclosure of information would impede ongoing investigation, prosecution or apprehension of an accused, was not enough and it must be backed with proper reasoning as to how it would impede.

But despite such orders of the High Court, Yusufi, who has applied for the post of Chief Information Commissioner, had agreed with the Ministry saying disclosure of information in the ongoing corruption case against the CPWD official would impede his prosecution, while failing to give any reason on how the disclosure would impede the process.

Justice Bakhru said neither the first appellate authority nor the Central Information Commission considered how the information sought for would impede the process of probe, apprehension or prosecution of the petitioner, who is an accused.