Delhi HC: HoD cannot invalidate an order passed by statutory authority under RTI Act
Ignorance of the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005 is fairly common as shown by a recent judgment of the Delhi High Court in the case of R.K. Jain v. Chairman, Income Tax Settlement Commission & Ors [W.P.(C) 2939/2014]. The Income Tax Settlement Commission is a body which was brought into existence to decide upon serious tax disputes involving complex legal issues with huge revenue stakes. In this case,the ITSC had erred in interfering with the process defined under the RTI Act through an administrative order which the Delhi High Court has struck down.
An RTI application was filed seeking information with respect to disposal and pendency of matters before the Income Tax Settlement Commission. The PIO passed an order furnishing certain information but certain other information as sought for was denied. The applicant preferred an appeal before the First Appellate Authority and the appeal was partly allowed. The applicant pursued the matter for compliance of the FAA order through reminders. The reply referred to an administrative order passed by the Chairman, ITSC which read as under:
“As there has been total no-compliance by the JDIT-II and DIT(Inv) of the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 and notification by the Chairman, ITSC, New Delhi order No. C-26016/1/05/SC-RTI/1178 dated 29/31-07-2013, the orders of even numbers dated 26.09.2013 and 21.10.2013 passed by the JDIT and DIT(Inv) are ab initio void and are annulled. The RTI application will be disposed of in accordance with the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 and notification by the Chairman, ITSC, New Delhi order No.C-26016/1/05/SCRTI/1178 dated 29/31-07-2013 by the Administrative Officer, (CPIO) ITSC, Principal Bench, New Delhi at the earliest.”
View of the Delhi High Court
The matter came up before the Delhi High Court. Our friend, Rakesh Chitkara, has nicely made a gist of the HC judgment which is reproduced below:-
1. The Head of an institution/Dept. cannot interfere in the working of the RTI authorities and cannot nullify an order passed by the RTI authority even though subordinate to him.
2. An order passed by statutory authority under RTI Act cannot be invalidated by an Administrative order without recourse to the hierarchy of the authorities under the RTI Act.
3. An order passed by the First Appellate Authority under RTI can only be questioned before the Central Information Commission or any other competent judicial form and not by any administrative authorities.
4. The Hon'ble High Court quashed the Order passed by the Chairman of the Income Tax Settlement Commission (ITSC), whereby the said Chairman set aside the Order passed by the RTI First Appellate Authority of the ITSC.
5. Writ petition can directly be filed in the High Court when anybody acted without authority of law to dislodge and order passed under RTI Act.
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2014/CIC/1471
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission