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Atul Patankar

Panels formed by SC under RTI ambit, rules CIC

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Atul Patankar

As reported by Nitin Sethi, TNN at timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 23 April 2009


NEW DELHI: In a far-reaching order, the Central Information Commission has ruled that any specialized committee formed by the Supreme Court is also a public authority and therefore falls under the purview of the Right To Information Act.


The order came in the specific case before the CIC about the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) created under the orders of the apex court. The CEC, initially a five-member body and later enlarged after a long-running controversy about its original members, was set up by the court to handle all the forest-related matters before it.


The CEC had contended that it was not a `public' authority under the RTI Act as it was not created or funded by the government but formed by the court. But the commission disagreed with the contention pointing out that any body created under the Constitution is an agency that is answerable under the information Act.


The order has come as a reaction to a controversial case that TOI had first reported. A forest official was persecuted by the Haryana government for booking culprits pointing out violations of the Wildlife Protection Act and the Forest Conservation Act in a wildlife sanctuary in the state. While he was shunted out and discriminated against, the case was taken up in the apex court.


The case went before the CEC. It ruled that there had been clear violations of not only the Forest Conservation Act, the Wildlife Protection Act, which attract penalties including jail, but also of earlier apex court orders. But the CEC then went on to condone the acts and give a reprieve to officials and others involved with a mere warning. It asked for a compensatory amount of Rs 1 crore against the crimes committed.


The applicants asked the CEC under what powers granted by which rule or regulation had it condoned the acts as the acts violated did not provide for such authority to any agency.


The CEC did not reply to the applicants and instead claimed that it was not answerable under the RTI and the information asked pertained to one of its report that was in public domain.


Now, the Central Information Commission has ordered that not only should the CEC reply to the queries as they are not part of the report it had put out but also set up adequate offices under the RTI Act to answer all future applicants


Source: Panels formed by SC under RTI ambit, rules CIC - India - The Times of India

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