Merely sending a reply is not enough; material records should be provided under RTI
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Allahabad High Court seeking to know the action taken on his complaint against the Additional District Judge Saharanpur. He also wanted to know if there was a time limit fixed by the High Court for disposal of such complaints. The Public Information Officer (PIO) informed him that the complaint had been placed before the Administrative Judge who had recorded some comments.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant submitted that he had sought similar information in the past and had received somewhat different information. He also complained that the PIO never provided any information within the stipulated period. The respondent submitted that the PIO had conveyed exactly what action had been taken on the complaint in the respective file without suppressing any facts. They also explained that the PIO had placed the RTI application along with the reply before the Committee of Judges as per the rules of the Allahabad High Court. The information was forwarded only after the approval of the Chief Justice was received and which caused the delay.
View of CIC
The Commission observed that it is not enough for the PIO to send a reply to the RTI application. The PIO should provide the available material records that constitute information. The CIC directed the PIO to provide the entire file noting on the said complaint(s). PIO was also directed to inform the appellant if the Allahabad High Court has fixed any time limit for disposal of citizen complaints of this nature. Regarding the delay, the Commission observed that the PIO of the Allahabad High Court rarely responds to RTI requests within the stipulated period of 30 days mainly because of the elaborate procedure laid down under the Allahabad High Court Right to Information Rules. The CIC held that they cannot punish the PIO for the delay because he is not responsible for the delay but the procedure put in place by the High Court.
The CIC observed that the Allahabad High Court procedure for disclosure of information involves the vetting and approval of the information by both a Committee of Judges and the Chief Justice of the High Court. The Commission ruled that the competent authority in the High Court must revisit this arrangement and ensure that the timelines fixed in the Right to Information (RTI) Act are strictly adhered to and the Allahabad High Court would follow the provisions of the law both in letter and spirit.
Who can ensure the courts of the land follow the law - both in letter and spirit?
Citation: Mr. Balvinder Singh v. Allahabad High Court in File No. CIC/SM/A/2012/001042
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2013/CIC/1052
Click here to view original RTI order of Court / Information Commission