RTI Judgement Series
RTI Judgement Series: PIO cannot deny information sought under RTI citing other rules or law

PIOs cannot deny information sought using the RTI Act, by citing any other law or rule or ask the applicant to apply under other rules, like the Order XII of the Supreme Court Rules. This is the third in a series of important judgements given by Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC that can be used or quoted in an RTI application 

The public information officer (PIO) cannot deny information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, unless except under Sections 8 and 9 and ask the applicant to apply under other rules like the Order XII of the Supreme Court (SC) Rules, says the Central Information Commission. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner, also disagreed with the decision of the then Chief Information Commission.
“The SC Rules as well as the RTI Act co-exist and therefore, it is for the citizen to determine which route s/he would prefer for obtaining the information. The right to information available to the citizens under the RTI Act cannot be denied where such citizen chooses to exercise such right, as has been done by the PIO in the instant case. The Commission would like to highlight that just as the SC Rules put in place by the Supreme Court are not abrogated, the RTI Act passed by the Parliament also cannot be suspended. 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,"  the Commission said in its order issued on 11 May 2011.
Gurgaon resident RS Misra sought information from the PIO, SC, on nine queries pertaining to action taken or status report on certain letters and reasons for judicial decisions. The PIO informed that in regard with query nos. 1 to 7, inspection can be done and information/ certified copies of the judicial records /judgments of the Supreme Court can be obtained by moving an application to the Registrar (Copying), Supreme Court under Order XII, SC Rules, 1966 on payment of prescribed fees and charges. The Officer also denied information on query no 9, saying that it is beyond the scope and jurisdiction of the PIO to interpret the law, judgements of the SC or of any other courts, opine, comment or advise on the matters, as it is not covered under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act.
The First Appellate Authority (FAA) upheld the decision of the PIO and asked Mr Misra to apply under Order XII of the SC Rules for inspection of documents and information related to judicial records on payment of the prescribed fee. Mr Misra, then approached the Commission.
Mr Gandhi, in his order said that it is legally established that information requested for under the RTI Act may be exempted from disclosure in accordance with Sections 8 and 9 only and no other exemptions can be claimed while rejecting a demand for disclosure.
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 the Parliament to safeguard the citizens' fundamental right to information from convoluted interpretations of other laws adopted by public authorities to deny information,” Mr Gandhi said.
The Commission said, “Merely because Order XII of the SC Rules provide for a mechanism by which certain information may be obtained by the applicant, does not mean that the citizen cannot exercise her right to obtain the same information by taking recourse to the RTI Act (subject always to the provisions of Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act)”.
Order XII of the SC Rules provides inter alia:
1. Subject to the provisions of these rules, a party to any cause, appeal or matter who has appeared shall be allowed to search, inspect or get copies of all pleadings and other documents or records in the case, on payment of the prescribed fees and charges.
2. The Court, on the application of a person who is not a party to the case, appeal or matter, may on good cause shown, allow such person such search or inspection or to obtain such copies as is or are mentioned in the last preceding rule, on payment of the prescribed fees and charges." 
Rule 1 allows only a party to any cause, appeal or matter who has appeared to inspect and/ or obtain copies of information pertaining to judicial matters. However, Rule 2 allows a person who is not a party to the case, appeal or matter to inspect and/ or obtain information relating to judicial matters where ‘good cause’ is shown. In other words, where a person is not a party to a case, appeal or matter, she would be required to demonstrate ‘good cause’ before the court before being allowed to inspect and/ or obtain copies of the information sought, the Commission stated.
Mr Gandhi said, “As per Section 6(2) of the RTI Act, an applicant making a request for information under the RTI Act shall not give any reasons for requesting the information. Under Rule 2, in order to determine what is 'good cause', it is necessary to enquire into the purpose/ reasons for which an applicant is seeking information. This is clearly violative of the statutory mandate of Section 6(2) of the RTI Act.”
Citizens would have to justify any request for information by demonstrating ‘good cause’ under Rule 2 and the ultimate decision whether information should be provided or not would lie with the court. In addition, the SC Rules neither provide for a specific time within which information shall be furnished, any appeal procedure, nor any penalty provisions where information is not provided.
“Therefore, this Commission respectfully disagrees with the observations of the then Chief Information Commissioner and holds that Rule 2, Order XII of the SC Rules appears to impose a restriction on access to information held by or under the control of a public authority, which is prima facie inconsistent with the RTI Act. Therefore, in accordance with Section 22 of the RTI Act, the provisions of the RTI Act shall override the SC Rules,” Mr Gandhi said.
The Bench further ruled 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. “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, she would like to obtain the information,” the Commission said.
Decision No. CIC/SM/A/2011/000237/SG/12351
Appeal No. CIC/SM/A/2011/000237/SG
Appellant :                                                                            RS Misra,
                                                                                                 S- 93, New Palam Vihar,
                                                                                                 Phase- I, Gurgaon- 122017
Respondent :                                                                         Mrs. Smita Vats Sharma,
                                                                                                 Supreme Court of India,
                                                                                                 New Delhi
Read other articles on RTI by Moneylife, here.



Vaidya Dattatraya Vasudeo

4 years ago

" Gurgaon resident RS Misra sought information from the PIO, SC, on nine queries pertaining to action taken or status report on certain letters and reasons for judicial decisions. "

In one of my case the NCDRC has given a judgment dismissing my case ' because there are defects in the case ". The judgement does not specify the what are the defects. I tried to get this information from NCDRC, which gave very vague information. As on today, I do not know what were the defects for which the case was dismissed. All the defects pointed in three stages by NCDRC were replied properly under guidance from a retired President from Consumer Court. How do I proceed to get full information. Any one who wants to guide me may give his contacts. My email id id [email protected]. Thanks.

RBI amendments in FEMA may spell more trouble for UPA

Senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury has blamed UPA government for the impasse in the Parliament saying it was not willing to have a vote on the FDI issue

New Delhi: The Union Government may face fresh trouble in Parliament over the recent amendments in Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, with CPI(M) on Tuesday saying these have to be voted within a time-frame as laid down in law, reports PTI.


The statement by senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury came on the fourth day of disruption of Parliament over the FDI issue as he blamed UPA government for the impasse saying it was not willing to have a vote on the FDI issue.


Citing the FEMA, he said the amendments carried out to permit FDI in retail has to be tabled in Parliament for voting.


While the RBI notified the amendments on 30th October, "Section 48 of the FEMA Act says once these amendments are made, they have to be placed before both the Houses of the Parliament as soon as possible.


"The convention is that they should be placed before the 15th sitting of the first session after the amendments are made. That means by 13th December," Yechury told reporters.


Once the amendments are tabled, they have to be disposed of through voting within 30 days.

"Government cannot escape from bringing an amendment. We do not know why is it not agreeing to it (voting)," he said.


"So vote on this issue is inevitable. This is the recourse we will legally take as law makers," he said.


Yechury referred to a recent Supreme Court observation on a public interest litigation (PIL) that the amendments cannot be effected unless relevant sections of the FEMA Act are amended by Parliament. The petitioner had challenged the government's FDI policy and charged it with not following the due process of law.


The apex court, while fixing 22nd January as the next date of hearing, told the petitioner, "You are assuming that it (amendments) won't be placed before Parliament. Your assumption is ill-founded. We would know about it only after the Winter Session of Parliament.... Let's see whether it is placed before Parliament or not and then we will see.


"They are at their own peril. They can take risk. If their action does not stand in Parliament then they made the policy at their own peril," the bench further observed when the petitioner contended that the apex court should intervene as a Parliamentary committee has opposed FDI in retail.


On the issue of government's decision to transfer cash for benefits like pensions, scholarships and health-care, Yechury objected to the idea of cash transfer using the Aadhar platform, saying it would lead to reduction in subsidy and dismantling of the PDS system.


"Aadhaar has not yet received legal sanctions and it has not been approved by Parliament as yet. Ultimately, it will reduce subsidy and dismantle the public distribution system," he said.




4 years ago

Despite accepting the prima facie position that the government policy on FDI in retail didn’t have a legal sanction, Supreme Court had suggested a via media to temporarily regularize the position by making a request to RBI to amend Foreign Exchange Management Act through a notification. In the given situation this was the maximum the Apex court could do to salvage the situation for a government which was already in the dock on several issues. The fire-fighting team of UPA II should have taken the message of the Apex Court ruling in this case which in effect was an advice to follow the rules of game in whatever it wants to do. Always this helping hand of the apex court may not be available.
The Honourable court must have been sadly aware that it might sound a little odd to ask RBI to initiate an amendment to FEMA to regularize an executive decision of the GOI, which should have been issued after consultation with RBI. GOI should have taken serious note of the following observation of the Apex Court and reviewed its action on other issues like introduction of New Pension Scheme (NPS) where legislative sanction was pending:
“Can the policy decision be in conflict with express provisions made in the regulations? The regulations provide certain cap on FDI in various sectors. Will changing the limit of FDI not be in direct conflict? The government has to follow the legal process. These are matters which have huge impact.”
A reference to NPS is made here as ‘defined benefit pension scheme’ available to employees under existing Pension Regulations has been replaced by a ‘defined contribution pension scheme’ in respect of a section of employees without legislative sanction.
Enforcing measures which need legislative sanction through executive order and then going to appropriate authorities/parliament to regularize them where there seems to be no ‘emergent’ situation warranting such action sends out disturbing signals. The present impasse proves that in the absence of necessary numbers in both the houses, this method may become a rule rather than exception in days to come.

India's rating outlook stable; deficit, inflation problems: Moody's

Moody's said its Baa3 rating on India is constrained by the credit challenges posed by the country's poor social and physical infrastructure, high government deficit and debt ratios, recurrent inflationary pressures and an uncertain operating environment

New Delhi: Ratings agency Moody's on Tuesday said India's credit outlook is stable but cautioned that high fiscal deficit and persistent inflationary pressure would continue to pose challenge for the economy, reports PTI.
The rating agency said that the 'Baa3' sovereign rating is supported by credit strengths which include a large, diverse economy, strong GDP growth as well as savings, and investment rates.
"The rating is constrained by the credit challenges posed by India's poor social and physical infrastructure, high government deficit and debt ratios, recurrent inflationary pressures and an uncertain operating environment," Moody's said in its 'Credit Analysis on India'.
The rating has also been constrained due to the country's "complex regulatory environment" and a tendency towards inflation, it said, adding that fiscal position has long been a constraint for rating.
The government aims to restrict the fiscal deficit to 5.3% of GDP this fiscal. It has also announced a slew of measures to spur infrastructure development and liberalised foreign direct investment norms.
"However, given the delayed timing and still modest scope of these measure, growth may remain subdued in the near term amid continued domestic political uncertainty and a global slowdown," Moody's added.
Moody's said persistent domestic inflation and wide fiscal deficits precluded domestic policy loosening to combat the global growth downturn over the last year.
The agency said its stable outlook on India's rating is based on "our expectations that India's structural strengths -- a high household savings rate and relatively competitive private sector -- will ultimately raise the GDP growth rate from around 5.4% in FY 2013 to 6 per cent or higher in FY 2014..."


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