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Critical Analysis of Supreme Court Judgements on the RTI Act, 2005 - Karnataka Information Commissioner Vs. PIO (HC)

ashakantasharma

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Critical Analysis of Supreme Court Judgements on the RTI Act, 2005

By Shailesh Gandhi,
Former Central Information Commissioner

Judgment : Karnataka Information Commissioner Vs. PIO (HC) - Unreported Judgment

About the case: A RTI applicant requested the Karnataka High Court
for certified copies of some information/documents regarding guidelines
and rules pertaining to scrutiny and classification of writ petitions and
the procedure followed by the Karnataka High Court in respect of Writ
Petition Nos.26657 of 2004 and 17935 of 2006. The PIO refused the
information on the grounds that the applicant should seek the
information under the Karnataka High Court rules. When the matter
went to the State Information Commission it disagreed with the PIO and
ordered the information to be provided under the RTI Act.

The Commission’s order was challenged by the PIO in the Karnataka
High Court which named the applicant as a respondent in the case and
the Karnataka High Court set aside the Commission’s order.

The Commission challenged this order before the Supreme Court and
the petition was filed by an Information Commissioner. The Court took
offense to the petition being filed by an Information Commissioner and
said that the Commission and Commissioner have no locus standi and
were wasting public money by challenging the order. In a harsh snub it
imposed a cost of Rs. 100000 on the Commission.

Our analysis of the judgement: It is worth mentioning that the
Supreme Court itself had accepted the Chief Information Commissioner
(Manipur) in judgement 2 hereinbefore as the Petitioner. Many High
Courts name the Commission as party in many petitions which
challenge the decision of an Information Commission. Hence the
Supreme Court taking umbrage at the commission approaching it as a
petitioner does not appear to be correct. More importantly, the important
matter of Section 22 which gives an overriding effect to the RTI Act,
was not addressed at all, and was brushed aside. This harsh snub by the
Supreme Court has silenced the Information Commissions into not
questioning the Courts, but becoming intellectually subservient to them.
If the apex court snubs statutory authorities in such a manner it harms
the rule of law, since such authorities suffer loss of respect which they
require to enforce the law.

Section 22 states that “the provisions of this 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 to safeguard the citizens’ fundamental right to information from
convoluted interpretations of other laws and rules adopted by public
authorities to deny information. This section simplifies the process of
implementing the right to information both for citizens as well as the
PIO. Citizens may seek to enforce their fundamental right to information
by invoking the provisions of the RTI Act if they desire to. By its order
in the case of the Karnataka Commission, the Supreme Court, without
addressing the provision of Section 22, sanctified and legitimized denial
of information under Right to Information, if any public authority claims
there are any other rules for giving information. This ruling has
neutralised Section 22 of the RTI Act without any proper reasoning or
discussion.

Besides it appears to be contrary to the Supreme Court’s pronouncement
at para 18 in the CBSE Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay case quoted above
where it had held, ““Section 22 of RTI Act provides that the provisions
of the said Act will have effect, notwithstanding anything inconsistent
therewith contained in any other law for the time in force. Therefore the
provisions of the RTI Act will prevail over the provisions of the byelaws/rules of the examining bodies in regard to examinations.” Surely
the rules of the Court cannot be treated differently.
 

satyamevajayate.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Analysis-of-Supreme-Court-judgments-on-RTI.pdf



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