HC seeks Centre’s response on CIC`s powers

Last Updated: Friday, December 23, 2011 - 18:47

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday sought
a response from the Centre on a plea whether the Central
Information Commission (CIC) was legally empowered to
prosecute an entity or a person for the offence of perjury if
false documents are filed before the transparency panel.

Justice Vipin Sanghi issued a notice to the Department of
Personnel and Training (DoPT) and asked it to file its reply
to the petition before March 16, the next date of hearing.
The court was hearing the petition of Shanmuga Patro, a
Delhi-based lawyer, who alleged the CIC refused to initiate
prosecution for the offence of perjury against Rajiv Gandhi
Foundation (RGF), "its aides and affiliates for filing forged
and fabricated documents in evidence" before the panel.

The apex transparency panel, in its December 9 order,
said "Without going into the merits of the case, first of all
it becomes necessary for the commission to see the source of
its power to invoke section 340 (perjury) of the Criminal
Procedure Code (CrPC) ...

"Nothing has been stated in the said application (of
Patro) about the powers of the Commission but in our opinion,
the Commission cannot take cognisance of a complaint under
section 340 of CrPC as such explicit powers have not been
granted by to the Commission under the Right to Information
Act, 2005. Hence, the Commission is constrained to decline the
requested relief."

Patro, in the petition, has sought a declaratory writ
that the CIC "has requisite powers under section 340 of CrPC
and/or inherent power to enquire into offences referred to in
section 195 (prosecution for contempt of lawful authority of
public servants, for offences against public justice...) of
the CrPC, which appears to have been committed in or in
relation to the proceedings before itself."
The petition raised the issue as to whether the CIC could
be treated as a "court" for prosecuting persons for the
offence of perjury or not.

It also said whether the Information Commissioners,
including the CIC, could be treated as "public servants"
within the definition of section 195 of the CrPC.

Earlier, Patro was denied certain information under RTI
about Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) by the CIC which said that
it (foundation) was not a "public authority" in terms of the
Act and was not bound to provide information.

Patro alleged that the foundation had informed the CIC
that received about four per cent of its revenue from the
government.

However, "in reality it receives a greater percentage of
its revenue from Government," he alleged and filed copies of
affidavits filed by the foundation and its Chairperson Sonia
Gandhi in November 1998 before the Delhi High Court revealing
its financial statements in response to civil case instituted
by late PN Lekhi.

The lawyer alleged that the foundation took "conflicting
stands" before the CIC and the High Court and sought
prosecution of its office bearers.

The transparency panel declined the plea to prosecute the
RGF and its office bearers saying it lacked the power.

PTI



First Published: Friday, December 23, 2011 - 18:47

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