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  1. As posted by Jasneet Bindra at indianexpress.com on Feb 03, 2010 Chandigarh : Punjab Chief Information Commissioner R I Singh has asked the police to provide an RTI applicant a copy of the inquiry report into a land deal, in which a woman allegedly sold part of a public street through a registered deed. Dismissing the police plea that this was third party information as the complainant was not a party to the case, Singh said, “The information is of public interest, as it has been alleged that an individual has fraudulently sold public land. Police have conducted an inquiry and papers related to it are public documents.” Ludhiana resident Mehar Chand had sought copies of the report of the inquiry conducted by the Economic Offences Wing of the police. The appellant alleged that Sawaranjit Kaur had fraudulently transferred a part of the public street by a registered deed in favour of Harvinder Singh. Ludhiana SSP (the PIO) and IGP, Zonal-II, Jalandhar (the first appellate authority) were respondents in the case. Kaur had earlier entered into an agreement with Jaswant Singh for sale of the property, but when he realised that she did not own the land, he withdrew. Alleging fraud, Jaswant submitted an application to the SSP, Ludhiana, and an inquiry was conducted by the EO Wing. Mehar Chand said public interest was involved in this case and police inquiry has established fraud in the deal. The respondent, on the other hand, took the plea that Mehar Chand was a third party as he was neither the complainant before the police nor the disputed property’s owner. The CIC said Section 11 of the RTI Act requires a PIO to give a written notice to the third party and invite submission asking whether information should be disclosed. “If public interest is involved, which outweighs the interest of third party, information must be disclosed. The criterion is of public interest,” Singh said. “There is nothing confidential about either the complainant made by Jaswant Singh or the conduct of Sawaranjit Kaur for which information should be withheld,” the CIC said Source: Information under RTI Act can be provided to third party, CIC tells police
  2. As reported by Jasneet Bindra at indianexpress.com on Dec 31, 2009 Chandigarh : Restrictions or exceptions to the right to information have to come from within the Act, and not from outside, rules CIC When there are two lanes leading to an information destination, it is the citizen’s prerogative to choose the direction. While disposing of three cases clubbed together, a double bench of CIC R I Singh and SIC Lt Gen P K Grover (retd) today ruled that when there is another route to get information from a public authority other than the RTI Act, then it is the prerogative of the citizen to choose which procedure he wants to adopt. In all the three cases— where applicants had sought copies of sale deeds and power of attorneys from various revenue authorities— of the many reasons for denial of information by the PIOs, one was that when a well-defined procedure with a fee structure already exists for obtaining copies of documents, why should they give information under the RTI Act. They said under the existing procedure, which was older than the RTI Act, the Punjab government had laid down infrastructure, fee structure, specified time frame, prescribed performa and designated officials for giving copies of documents. During the course of arguments, the appellants and the respondents relied on conflicting judgments. The appellants counted on the decision of the Central Information Commission, wherein it was held that “if a public authority has a process of disclosing information, which can also be accessed using the RTI Act, it is the citizen’s right to decide which route he wishes to use.” “If Parliament wanted to restrict a citizen’s right, it would have been stated in the law,” the judgment had ruled. On the other hand, the respondents relied on the judgment passed by the Punjab State Information Commission, which had held that it was not the intention of the RTI Act to make available documents which were already obtainable under a laid-down procedure. After hearing both the parties, CIC Singh and SIC Lt Gen Grover said, “Restrictions or exceptions to the right to information have to come from within the Act, and not from outside. It is the privilege of the citizen to choose the route he wants to and the respondents should not dictate it to him.” They said there was nothing in the RTI Act to even vaguely suggest that the law may not be accessed where legal documents were available through any other procedure or Act. And if there was a contradiction between the RTI Act and other laws, the former would prevail, they added. On the issue of loss of revenue raised by the respondents, who said that the fee for providing copies under the RTI Act was comparatively lower than the structure notified under the old law, the double bench said, “The power to prescribe fees under all the three laws, the Registration Act, Punjab Land Revenue Act and the RTI Act vests with the state government. If the state government is concerned about the loss of revenue, it may amend the rules” Coming down heavily upon the appellants, who had sought third party information, saying that they wanted to check evasion of stamp duty, the bench said, “No matter how altruistic the objective of the appellant may sound, we cannot allow them to conduct a ‘wholesale’ search of documents and rampage the privacy of others. The appellants are not the Auditor General of India.” The commissioners closed all three cases. Source: ‘Citizen can choose RTI even if there’s another way to get info’
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