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karira

SC raps K’taka information commissioner

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karira

As reported in deccanherald.com on 18 Jan 2013:

SC raps K’taka information commissioner

 

[h=1]SC raps K’taka information commissioner[/h]

The Supreme Court on Friday expressed displeasure over a petition filed by the Karnataka information commissioner, challenging a Karnataka High Court order rejecting his direction to divulge details on a pending writ petition under the RTI Act.

 

A bench of justices G S Singhvi and H L Gokhale pointed out that the information commission was a judicial body and the commissioner could not be aggrieved in personal capacity by a high court order.

 

“What is the locus of the petitioner (Karnataka Information Commissioner) to file this petition? Who has authorised him to do so? Has the information commissioner paid the entire litigation cost from his pocket,” the bench asked advocate V N Raghupathy, appearing for the petitioner.

 

Describing the petition as “frivolous,” the court imposed cost before dismissing it. Perusing the case title, the court became livid and asked the counsel if it should summon the information commissioner. “It is mischief,” the court observed, adding that only the person who was denied information could be aggrieved.

 

It was hearing a special leave petition listed as “Karnataka Information Commissioner versus State Public Information Officer and another.” The court said the information commissioner could not be aggrieved if an order passed by him, to reveal details in a case under the Right to Information Act, was set aside by the high court.

 

In the instant case, the information seeker sought details of the pending writ petition from the Karnataka High Court’s registrar. The official asked the applicant to apply for a certified copy, according to the rules.

The information seeker approached the state transparency panel, which directed the registrar to pass the information to him.

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karira

Please read the judgment below:

 

My Query:

 

Who will pay the Rs 100,000 ?

 

The Karnataka State Information Commission

OR

The Karnataka Chief Information Commissioner

(He was Petitioner in the HC)

OR

The Karnataka Information Commissioner

(The petitioner in the SC)

RTIwanted

 

====================

 

IITEM NO.30 COURT NO.4 SECTION IVA

S U P R E M E C O U R T O F I N D I A

RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS

Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (Civil)....../2013 CC 1853/2013

(From the judgement and order dated 15/06/2012 in WA No.3255/2010, of TheHIGH COURT OF KARNATAKA AT BANGALORE)

 

KARNATAKA INFORMATION COMMISSIONER Petitioner(s)

VERSUS

STATE PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER & ANR Respondent(s)

(With appln(s) for c/delay in filing SLP and office report ))

 

Date: 18/01/2013

 

This Petition was called on for hearing today.

 

CORAM : HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE G.S. SINGHVI HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE H.L. GOKHALE

 

For Petitioner(s) Mr. V.N. Raghupathy,Adv.

 

For Respondent(s) UPON hearing counsel the Court made the following

 

O R D E R

 

Delay condoned.

 

This petition filed by Karnataka Information Commissioner for setting aside order dated 15.6.2012 passed by the Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court in Writ Appeal No.3255/2010 (GM-RES) titled Karnataka Information Commission v. State Public Information Officer and another cannot but be described as a frivolous piece of litigation which deserves to be dismissed at the threshold with exemplary costs.

 

Respondent No.2 filed an application under Section 6(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (for short, 'the Act') and sought certain documents and information from the Public Information Officer - Deputy Registrar (Establishment) of the High Court of Karnataka (respondent No.1). His prayer was for supply of 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.

 

Respondent No.1 disposed of the application of respondent No.2 vide order dated 3.8.2007 and intimated him that the information sought by him is available in the Karnataka High Court Act and the Rules and he can obtain the certified copies of the order sheets of the two writ petitions by filing appropriate application under the High Court Rules.

 

Respondent No.2 filed complaint dated 17.1.2008 under Section 18 of the Act before the Karnataka Information Commission (for short, 'the Commission')and made a grievance that the certified copies of the documents had not been made available to him despite payment of the requisite fees. The Commission allowed the complaint of respondent No.2 and directed respondent No.1 to furnish the High Court Act, Rules and certified copies of order sheets free of cost.

 

Respondent No.1 challenged the aforesaid order in Writ Petition No.9418/2008. The learned Single Judge allowed the same and quashed the order of the Commission by making the following observations:

 

"The information as sought for by the respondent in respect of Item Nos. 1, 3 and 4 mentioned above are available in Karnataka High Court Act and Rules made thereunder. The said Act and Rules are available in market. If not available, the respondent has to obtain copies of the same from the publishers. It is not open for the respondent to ask for copies of the same from the petitioner. But strangely, the Karnataka Information Commission has directed the petitioner to furnish the copies of the Karnataka High Court Act & Rules free of cost under Right to Information Act. The impugned order in respect of the same is illegal and arbitrary.

 

The information in respect of Item Nos.6 to 17 is relating to Writ Petition No.26657/2004 and Writ Petition No. 17935/2006. The respondent is a party to the said proceedings. Thus, according to the Rules of the High Court, it is open for the respondent to file an application for certified copies of the order sheet or the relevant documents for obtaining the same. (See Chapter-17 of Karnataka High Court Rules, 1959). As it is open for the respondent to obtain certified copies of the order sheet pending as well as the disposed of matters, the State Chief Information Commissioner is not justified in directing the petitioner to furnish copies of the same free of costs. If the order of the State Chief Information Commissioner is to be implemented, then, it will lead to illegal demands. Under the Rules, any person who is party or not a party to the proceedings can obtain the orders of the High Court as per the procedure prescribed in the Rules mentioned supra. The State Chief Information Commissioner has passed the order without applying his mind to the relevant Rules of the High Court. The State Chief Information Commissioner should have adverted to the High Court Rules before proceeding further. Since the impugned order is illegal and arbitrary, the same is liable to be quashed. Accordingly, the following order is made."

 

Respondent No.2 did not challenge the order of the learned Single Judge. Instead, the Commission filed an appeal along with an application for condonation of 335 days' delay. The Division Bench dismissed the application for condonation of delay and also held that the Commission cannot be treated as an aggrieved person.

 

We have heard Shri V. N. Raghupathy, learned counsel for the petitioner.

 

What has surprised us is that while the writ appeal was filed by the Commission, the special leave petition has been preferred by the Karnataka Information Commissioner. Learned counsel could not explain as to how the petitioner herein, who was not an appellant before the Division Bench of the High Court can challenge the impugned order. He also could not explain as to what was the locus of the Commission to file appeal against the order of the learned Single Judge whereby its order had been set aside.

 

The entire exercise undertaken by the Commission and the Karnataka Information Commissioner to challenge the orders of the learned Single Judge and the Division Bench of the High Court shows that the concerned officers have wasted public money for satisfying their ego. If respondent No.2 felt aggrieved by the order of the learned Single Judge, nothing prevented him from challenging the same by filing writ appeal. However, the fact of the matter is that he did not question the order of the learned Single Judge. The Commission and the Karnataka Information Commissioner had no legitimate cause to challenge the order passed by the learned Single Judge and the Division Bench of the High Court. Therefore, the writ appeal filed by the commission was totally unwarranted and misconceived and the Division Bench of the High Court did not commit any error by dismissing the same.

 

With the above observations, the special leave petition is dismissed. For filing a frivolous petition, the petitioner is saddled with cost of Rs.1,00,000/-. The amount of cost shall be deposited by the petitioner with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee within a period of 2 months from today. If the needful is not done, the Secretary of the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee shall recover the amount of cost from the petitioner as arrears of land revenue.

 

|(Parveen Kr.Chawla) |

 

|(Phoolan Wati Arora) |

 

|Court Master |

 

|Court Master || | | |-----------------------

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smbhappy

I think it is the collecive responsibility of the Karanataka Information Commission and all the Commissioners should bear the burden. The Commission should pay first and then recover the amount from the salaries of all the commissioners.

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jps50

Now the question is who should bear the cost for such ego massaging by KIC ? Public, Concerned IC or Chief IC or all those responsible for recommending and approving such frivolous litigation?. The entire cost to KIC [like advocate fees, travelling, hotel bills at Delhi, man hours etc] may be more than Rs.100000/- in addition to cost imposed by Hon'ble Supreme Court.

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smbhappy

The Punjab Information Commission toady sought the Supreme Court Judgement from me as they tried their level best to ontain the same from all their resources and failed. This was IN THE WAKE OF my "RTI EDUCATION SERIES - 001" which I am sending to all the State Information Commissioners as well as Central Information Commission and DoPT etc.

 

The post of Karira and Umapati s. came handy to me and I obliged the Commission as well others.

 

This sace and the othe I posted in the "RTI EDUCATION SERIES" has stirred the Commission. They are now getting the taste of blood and also comming to know theur sphere of working within the manadate given to them under RTI Act 2005. Commission has started issueg Show Caise Notices in al,ost every case. Even issuing Bailabale and Non-bailable Warrants to ensure the presence of the PIOs and FAAs, has bocome the rutine of the day, as the oppertunity of being heard is necessary before imposing penalty.

 

I am very happy with my new initiative of EDUCATION SERIES and other communication sent to the Commissions accross the country and to the RTI Groups. I have been bestowed more respect in the Commission and every Commissioner Stands and shake hand with me.

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jps50

This is positive intervention by you in the interest of RTI. Thanks.

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umapathi.s

I had a brief discussion with one of the information Commissioners in this regard yesterday. As per his version, the decision to file the case both before the division bench of High Court and Supreme Court was a collective decision of the all the information Commissioners. It is also conveyed to me that the information Commission sought the opinion of the Advocate General in this regard who gave his approval for filing the case. Therefore, information Commissioner told that they are not at any fault. He also expressed his dissatisfaction that there was no need for the Apex Court to make certain comments as they are unwarranted.

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karira
I had a brief discussion with one of the information Commissioners in this regard yesterday. As per his version, the decision to file the case both before the division bench of High Court and Supreme Court was a collective decision of the all the information Commissioners. It is also conveyed to me that the information Commission sought the opinion of the Advocate General in this regard who gave his approval for filing the case. Therefore, information Commissioner told that they are not at any fault. He also expressed his dissatisfaction that there was no need for the Apex Court to make certain comments as they are unwarranted.

 

Since you are locally based at Bangalore, can you file a RTI to inspect all the files related to this petition, legal expenses incurred, etc...

 

That will help get to the bottom of the matter.

 

I personally feel that it must be some ego issue between the KSIC and the Karnataka HC (Administartive side).

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umapathi.s

yes I have filed RTI Application on the very next day to the PIO of Information Commission. PIO , who is new , is not aware of the developments in this case. However she has assured that she will obtain the documents from the legal departments which gave nod to go ahead in this case.

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Sajib Nandi

By Shailesh Gandhi in Hindustantimes.com on January 30, 2013

Why RTI needs to be supreme - Hindustan Times

 

In a recent order, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by the Karnataka information commissioner as “frivolous”. It also went on to impose costs of Rs. 1 lakh. A closer analysis proves that this case has far reaching implications for the fundamental rights of a citizen, rights that have been codified in the Right to Information Act.

 

The particulars are as follows. A Right to Information (RTI) applicant had initially sought information from the Karnataka High Court. The court’s Public Information Officer (PIO) had refused to disclose this information on the grounds that the citizen must seek the required information by following the rules of the Karnataka High Court itself. As per the RTI Act, information can only be refused under the provisions of Sections 8 and 9. So the state’s information commission, as a consequence, did not agree with the PIO. It asked him to provide the needed information under the RTI Act.

 

The Karnataka High Court went on to name the applicant as the respondent in a case that saw it quash the commission’s order. The commission decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court where an information commissioner filed the petition. The Supreme Court took umbrage at the fact that an information commissioner had filed the petition. It went on to say that the commission and commissioner have no locus and also added that by challenging the high court order, they were both only wasting public money.

 

It is my belief that both the high court and the Supreme Court have failed to address a very important point of law. Section 22 of the RTI Act makes explicit the fact that if there is any inconsistency in a law with regard to the furnishing of information, such a law shall be superseded by the RTI Act. The insertion of a non-obstante clause in Section 22 of the RTI Act was a conscious choice made by Parliament to safeguard the fundamental right to information from convoluted interpretations of other laws and rules that are adopted by public authorities to deny information. Section 22 of the RTI Act 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 simply invoking the provisions of the RTI Act. Without addressing the provisions of Section 22, the Supreme Court has, by this order, sanctified and legitimised the denial of information by public authorities, who claim that there are rules to disclosure. This could have the effect of nullifying the impact and effect of the RTI Act in a serious way.

 

I believe information commissions have a justifiable duty to pursue and champion the provisions of the RTI Act. Very few commissioners do this, and the Supreme Court’s strictures on a legitimate exercise by a statutory authority is unfortunate. This would discourage commissions from pursuing their duties.

 

Logically, anyone who is a respondent or a petitioner has locus in a case. I must point out that there is confusion in the courts about who should be named respondents when an RTI decision of the information commission is challenged in a writ. The Karnataka and Bombay high courts ask the commission to assume the role of a respondent in many cases, while the Delhi High Court has refused to accept the information commission as a respondent for the last two years. The only unexplained exception was in WP 3318/2012 when the court named me a respondent for discharging legitimate duties as an information commissioner. In such circumstances, the Karnataka commission could not have had clarity about whether or not it should file a petition. If a citizen can file a PIL, is it so objectionable for an information commission to challenge a major dilution to the RTI Act? Though we recognise the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, it does seem to have publicly reprimanded a statutory authority without compelling reason. This could be a major setback for transparency and democracy in India.

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karira

Reference the above post of Mr Shailesh Gandhi, I think there is a lot of confusion amongst HCs.

 

For example, if one reads the judgments of the Kerala HC (I have read upto June 2012) the SIC is being made a respondent in all petitions and also the Standing Counsel of the SIC (one Mr Ajay) is regularly appearing before the Court and defending the SICs orders.

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