Additional penalty of Rs 50,000/- imposed for frivolous RTI petition
The Public Information Officer (PIO) of Sales Tax department denied the information about the sales tax returns filed by Mr. Premchand Goel to his brother Mr. Ashok Kumar Goel under the RTI Act. On appeal, the First Appellate Authority, the CIC and the single judge bench of the high court upheld the decision of the PIO. On appeal to the divisional bench, the Delhi High Court held that the information on filing sales tax returns sought by the appellant were "private" in nature and cannot be provided under the RTI Act.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice AK Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw observed that "When we examine the present case, we come to an opinion that the information on filing of sales tax returns of a person are duly protected under the Right to Information Act and has rightly been not provided." The bench ruled that the provisions of the Sales Tax Act and the RTI make it very clear that information about the sales tax returns are "private" in nature and cannot be provided unless a larger public interest was involved.
The bench held that this kind of "revengeful" litigation pursued by the appellant man against his brother was an abuse of the process of law. The order said "The filing of the present appeal against the order of the single-judge bench of this court, which had upheld the order of the Central Information Commission (CIC), was abuse of the process of law. We impose a fine of Rs 50,000 on petitioner (Ashok Kumar Goel). The fine would be deposited with the Delhi Legal Services Authority." The bench imposed this penalty in addition to the cost of Rs. 25,000 imposed earlier on Premchand Goel by the single judge bench of the court.
Justice Sikri refused to allow the withdrawal of the petition "I am sorry. I will not even allow you to withdraw your petition. You are trying to settle a personal score with your brother that too through the RTI. These are confidential and private information and hence, you cannot be allowed to abuse the process of law. We are passing an order and will impose a cost of Rs 50,000 on you."
The RTI Act is not a vehicle to harass individuals or organisations. It is not meant to be used to take "undue" advantage of the law to settle personal scores. Hopefully, such case of penalty would act as a deterrent for the frivolous filing of petitions.