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CIC makes it easier to access court records


karira

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As reported by Abhinav Garg of TNN in timesofindia.indiatimes.com on 01 February 2009:

CIC makes it easier to access court records-Delhi-Cities-The Times of India

 

CIC makes it easier to access court records

 

NEW DELHI: In a ruling that promises to make it easier for litigants to access judicial files/records from courts, the Central Information Commission has made it clear that courts can't rebuff RTI pleas on the ground that the information asked should be asked for via Evidence Act. The Act requires a person to apply for "file inspection'' and leaves it to the discretion of courts to approve the plea. If allowed, a litigant is granted certified copies of a case document, having legal sanctity.

 

The Central Information Commission's ruling takes out this discretion of courts and says under RTI Act, court administration will have to provide the information demanded, unless it is exempted from disclosure under RTI itself.

 

With a section of Evidence Act overlapping with provisions of RTI the newer act Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi decided in favour of the information seeker, holding that the RTI Act will have an over-riding effect on any other law, in this case the Evidence Act, for instance, when there is an obligation on a public agency to disclose information. "If a public authority has a process of disclosing certain information which can also be accessed by a citizen using RTI, it is the citizen's right to decide which route he wishes to use. The existence of another method for accessing information can't be used to deny a citizen the right to information.. it is a citizen's right to use the most convenient and efficacious means available to him,'' Gandhi observed in a recent order, asking the PIO of Tis Hazari Courts in the Capital to supply information to one Vinay Kumar in 15 days time.

 

Kumar had moved CIC in appeal after his plea under RTI for judicial files from a particular court in Tis Hazari complex was shot down by court administration. A lawyer by profession, he had asked for copies of "suit files and suit disposal records'' of a judge from the period 26.2.93 to 31.3.93. The PIO declined Kumar's request saying he should apply under Evidence Act and ask for a certified copy from the copying agency, a reasoning upheld by the first appellate authority, forcing Kumar to approach CIC.

 

The PIO claimed before CIC that no information was "held'' by court yet maintained a copy of old record could be furnished only after court's permission, otherwise his disclosing would invite contempt action. But CIC countered, pointing out "there is no specific order of a court expressly forbidding the information from being published. PIO's plea it would constitute contempt of court is without any basis.''

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