Can only an advocate represent a citizen before the information commission?
In a significant move, the State Information Commission (SIC), Punjab has taken up the issue, whether any a person who is not an advocate, can appear, plead and represent on behalf of Appellant/ Complainant as his authorised representative. The SIC has answered the query in affirmative. This order would pave the way for the RTI activists and other persons with experience in RTI issues to represent a citizen before the information commission.
The text of the order is given below.
STATE INFORMATION COMMISSION, PUNJAB
SCO No. 84-85, Sector 17-C, CHANDIGARH.
Shri Sukhchain Lal s/o Shri Kasturi Lal,
r/o 78/9, Main Bazar, Katra Khajana,
The Public Information Officer
Complaint Case No. 2521 of 2013
Present:- Shri Sukhchain Lal alongwith Shri P.C.Bali on behalf of the complainant.
Shri Surinder Mohindroo, PIO alongwith Shri S.K. Sharma, Advocate on behalf of the respondent.
Parties were heard on 6.11.2013. The pleadings of the respondent is that under the Right to Information Act, 2005 or in any other law, there is no provision to permit an ordinary citizen, who is not registered as an advocate to plead on behalf of the information-seeker in proceedings before the State Information Commission.
2. Briefly the facts are that Shri Sukhchain Lal has filed the present complaint under Section 18 of the RTI Act before the Commission on 9.7.2013. One-Shri P.C.Bali has appeared on behalf of the complainant in proceedings before the Commission. Shri Sukhchain Lal has given in writing an authority letter authorizing Shri P.C.Bali to represent him in complaint case No.2521/2013. Representation of the complainant by Shri P.C.Bali, however, was objected to by Shri S.K. Sharma, Advocate appearing on behalf of the respondent-Municipal Corporation, Amritsar. His plea is that only an authorized advocate duly registered under law, as such can represent a party in Court proceedings including before the State Information Commission.
3. Right to Information Act, 2005 is a right based enactment and welfare legislation. It imposes duties on the public authorities to even suo-motto disclose the information. A duty is caused on Public Information Officer under Section 6(1) of the RTI Act to render all reasonable assistance to the person making a request orally to reduce the same in writing. The objective is to facilitate access to information.
4. There is no provision in law which prohibits an information-seeker from being represented by an authorized person. Hon’ble Supreme Court in REVIEW PETITION [C] No.2309 OF 2012 in WRIT PETITION [C] NO.210 OF 2012, Union of India Versus Namit Sharma with REVIEW PETITION [C] No.2675 OF 2012 in WRIT PETITION [C] NO.210 OF 2012 State of Rajasthan & Anr.Versus Namit Sharma has held that Information Commission are administrative tribunals. Therefore, I see no ground to debar a non-advocate to appear in the Commission as authorized representative of an information-seeker. The proceedings in the case shall proceed further.
5. To come up on 7.1.2014 at 11.00 A.M.
November 21, 2013 Chief Information Commissioner, Punjab