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Ms. Vishaish Uppal ask for information under RTI regarding appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner from PMO

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Ms. Vishaish Uppal ask for information under RTI regarding appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner from PMO

 

Ms. Vishaish Uppal of Gulmohar Park applied to Shri Kamal Dayani, CPIO, Prime Minister’s Office on 22.11.2005 seeking to inspect files, papers etc. relating to the appointment of the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners.

 

Deciding upon the case Shri. Wajahat Habibullah, Chief Information Commissioner stated that denial of information is under the orders of the Public Authority and it is open to the Public Authority to deny the information provided such denial can be justified under Section 8(1) of the Act.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The appellate Authority in this case has held that the matter has been classified “confidential” under the Official Secrets Act, 1923. However, in view of the provisions of the Section 22 of the Act “The provision of this 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 this Act” , the provisions of Official Secrets Act stands over-ridden.

 

Section 8(2) enables the public authority to disclose information notwithstanding anything in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 or any of the exemptions permissible under Section 8(1), if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests. Sec. 8(2) is, therefore, not a ground distinct and separate from what has been specified explicitly under Section 8(1) of the Act for withholding information by the public authority.

 

The Appellate Authority, therefore, cannot withhold this information either on the ground that the information is classified as “confidential” under the Official Secrets Act or under Section 8(2) alone. However, Sec 22 as described above only overrides anything inconsistent with the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Official Secrets Act, 1923 stands neither rescinded nor abrogated. While a public authority may only withhold such information as could be brought within any of the clauses of Section 8(1), it is open to that authority to classify any of these items of information as “Confidential”, thus limiting the discretion of any other authority in respect to these.

 

In this particular case denial of information is under the orders of the Public Authority and it is open to the Public Authority to deny the information provided such denial can be justified under Section 8(1) of the Act. The Prime Minister’s Office will, therefore, re-examine the matter in view of the observations made above within fifteen days of the date of issue of the Decision Notice and it may disclose the information to the appellant, unless of course, the disclosure of the information can be denied or withheld under any of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. The Public Authority shall take an appropriate reasoned decision.

 

 

 

This Commission is also required to decide as to whether the Public Information Officer had without any reasonable cause knowingly given incorrect, incomplete or misleading information to the appellant. In such cases, the burden of proving that he acted reasonably and diligently is on the CPIO. CPIO Sh Kamal Dayani may, therefore, show that the information provided by him to the appellant in his letter of 22.11.05 was given with reasonable cause or without knowledge that the information so provided was misleading. The response to this Notice may be received from CPIO Shri Kamal Dayani within 15 working days from the date of issue of this order either in writing or by personal appearance failing which he will be rendered liable for imposition of penalty u/s 20(1) of this Act.

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