Can the Consumer protection Act and RTI Act be invoked simultaneously?
A former employee of a Technical Institute had been terminated from service after an inquiry. He filed an RTI application seeking details about alleged out-of-round promotion of some of his colleagues in 2008. When he could not get the information, he filed an appeal before the First Appellate Authority who did not pass any order. On his second appeal, the State Information Commission ordered the Institute to provide the information to him free of cost.
View of the Consumer Court
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum Pune has ordered the institution to pay compensation of Rs. 15,000/- to the applicant for delay in providing him information sought by him which he claimed would otherwise hurt his case pending in the Bombay High Court. The institute argued that an RTI applicant is not a ‘consumer’ as per the definition in the Consumer Protection Act. Relying on a National Consumer Rights Commission order, the court panel of president of the forum Anjali Deshmukh and member S K Kapse held that once the complainant had availed the remedy against which appeal was provided, he could still file a complaint under the Consumer Protection Act. The consumer court observed that although it cannot direct the institute to make the documents available to the applicant, it can order the institute to pay a compensation for mental and physical agony faced by him. The court ordered the institute to pay Rs. 15,000/- as compensation and a further of Rs. 1,000/- as litigation cost.
By paying a fee of Rs. 10/-, an applicant becomes a consumer of services and is liable to be provided with a minimum level of services. Therefore, an applicant can claim compensation both under the Consumer Protection Act as well as the RTI Act simultaneously.