SC cannot deny information under RTI Act: CIC
New Delhi: Overturning its previous orders,
the Central Information Commission has held that the Supreme
Court cannot deny information under the RTI Act even if an
applicant has "other methods" available, under the apex court
rules, to get it.
Earlier, in a number of cases, the then Chief Information
Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah had held that if there were
existing laws and rules for furnishing information in an
organisation, information seeker had to use them and not the
Right to Information Act.
Accepting the arguments of the Supreme Court, he had said
that as per Section 22 of the RTI Act, the transparency law
would prevail over the existing laws only when there is
"inconsistency" between the two.
The apex court had argued that since it already had a
mechanism for furnishing information on judicial proceedings
and documents, under the Supreme Court rules, these records
cannot be provided under the RTI Act as there was no
"inconsistency" between the two.
Setting aside these arguments, Information Commissioner
Shailesh Gandhi has now said, "This Commission respectfully
disagrees with the decision of the then Chief Information
Commissioner that the PIO, Supreme Court may choose to deny
the information sought under the RTI Act and ask an applicant
to apply for information under Order XII of the SC Rules."
He said where there are methods of giving information by
any public authority which were in existence before the advent
of the RTI Act, the citizen may insist on invoking the
provisions of the RTI Act to obtain the information.
"It is the citizen`s prerogative to decide under which
mechanism i.e. under the method prescribed by the public
authority or the RTI Act, he/she would like to obtain the
information," Gandhi said.
The case relates to RTI applicant RS Mishra who sought
to know from the Supreme Court, through nine queries, the
status report on certain letters and reasons for judicial
decisions, but the information was denied to him.
He was advised by the Supreme Court to come through its
rules for getting requisite documents.
The Commission would like to highlight that just as the
SC Rules put in place by the apex court are not abrogated, the
RTI Act passed by Parliament also cannot be suspended, Gandhi
"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," he said.
Gandhi said an information seeker who has filed
application under the RTI Act "cannot be forced" to obtain the
information as per order XII of the SC Rules.
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