Orders issued by MoEF in compliance of Tribunal order - PIO: denied u/s 8(1)(h) claiming that ministry had challenged the order and disclosure may adversely affect the SLP - CIC: communications outside the Ministry are public documents - hence disclosable
1. Referring to some order passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on 7 September 2012, the Appellant had wanted to know the details of the action taken by the Ministry pursuant to that order, such as, the copies of the orders/directions/communications given to the State Government of Assam and others. In a belated reply, the CPIO had refused to disclose any such information on the ground that the Ministry had, in the meanwhile, challenged the order of the NGT before the Supreme Court of India. He had invoked the exemption provision contained in section 8(1)(h) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders; of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in support of his decision.
2. During the hearing, the respondent submitted that since the Ministry had challenged the order of the NGT, the CPIO should not be compelled to disclose the desired information and, instead, the Appellant should get that information through the Supreme Court of India. In his opinion, the disclosure of the information might have some adverse impact on the SLP filed by the Ministry.
3. We have carefully considered the facts of the case. The respondent has admitted that, consequent to the order passed by the NGT, the Ministry had issued certain orders and directions. We do not see how the disclosure of those orders/directions issued by the Ministry in compliance of the Tribunal order would adversely affect the prospect of the SLP filed in the Supreme Court of India. In any case, all these communications have been issued to authorities and agencies outside the Ministry and, to that extent, are public documents. Therefore, we are of the view that all these documents should be disclosed except those which contain, if at all, any particular strategy the Ministry might employ in defending its SLP. We direct the CPIO to write to the Appellant within 10 working days of receiving this order and send him the copies of all the orders and directions and communications which might have been issued consequent to the direction of the NGT, subject however to the normal exemption provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Shri Rohit Choudhary v. Ministry of Environment & Forests in Case No. CIC/SM/A/2013/000631