Karnataka HC: No disclosure of information under section 18
AR Vishwanatha, a social and environmental activist, filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act to the Public Information Officer (PIO), Karnataka Lokayukta seeking the certified copies of the statements of assets and liabilities submitted by all sitting MLAs/ MLCs and BBMP corporators to the Lokayukta. Information was also sought regarding the statements submitted by MLAs regarding the criminal cases pending against them in various courts of law.
The PIO asked the applicant to file separate application with respect to each MLA /MLC and informed that the details of the assets and liabilities of the BBMP corporators are not required to be submitted to the Lokayukta. Not satisfied with the reply, the applicant filed a complaint under Section 18 of the RTI Act to the Karnataka State Information Commission (SIC). On February 9, 2012, the SIC passed an order directing for inspection of the documents against which the Lokayukta approached the Karnataka High Court.
The Karnataka high court has ruled that as per the Section 18 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005, a direction cannot be issued to the PIO either to allow disclosure of the information. Justice AN Venugopala Gowda observed that "If the commission feels the PIO has not furnished information within the time specified under sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the RTI Act, malafidely denied the request for information or knowingly given incorrect/ misleading information or obstructed in any manner in furnishing the information, the commission shall impose a penalty not exceeding Rs 25,000 ………The PIO having notified the applicant the need to file separate applications for each subject matter as per Rule 14, the Karnataka Information Commission, in total disregard of the rule and the objective with which it was inserted, has acted in excess of its jurisdiction in entertaining the complaint and passing the orders under challenge. Since the applicant was notified to file separate applications, there being no cause of action to file a complaint under Section 18 of the Act, the complaint is not maintainable and only abuse of the process of law."
Liberty has been given to the applicant to file separate applications as per Rule 14 for each subject matter.