Should an applicant be physically present to get copies of the documents?
The request of the appellant to provide him with the certified/Xerox copies of several documents relating to certain writ petitions was denied by the PIO citing the decision of the CIC in the matter of Shri RK Gupta in CIC/WB/A/2010/000204SM. The Appellate Authority had also endorsed the decision of the PIO by taking recourse to the very same decision.
View of the CIC
The Commission did not agree with the conclusions reached by the PIO and the Appellate Authority that the citizen would have no right to seek such information since it relates to judicial proceedings. The Commission noted that the Appellant is not seeking any justification for a particular judicial pronouncement; he is merely seeking copies of certain records and documents and is willing to pay the fees. The Commission pointed out to the Appellant that, ordinarily, certified copies of various documents relating to writ petitions filed before the High Court could be obtained by making applications under the relevant rules of the High Court itself. The Commission also pointed out that High Courts and the Supreme Court had framed elaborate rules for disclosure of such information outside the RTI Act and, therefore, the copies of such records should be obtained by following those rules. The Appellant submitted that while he was willing to get the copies of the records as per the rules of the High Court in this regard, it would be very expensive for him to approach the High Court in person for this purpose. The Commission observed that if the rules of the High Court stipulate that the person seeking certified copies of documents relating to any writ petition has to be personally present before the High Court itself, then the Commission cannot really help.
The quantum of fee to be charged and the methodology of disclosure in respect of information for which the public authority has specific norms has been under debate. Different benches have taken a different stand on it. It has been argued that as the RTI Act overrides anything which is inconsistent with it, the procedure prescribed under the Act takes precedence over any other rules. The final word is yet to come on the matter.
Citation: Shri CVS Ramakrishna v. High Court of Andhra Pradesh in File No.CIC/WB/A/2010/000204SM