Petition received by AG and Solicitor General for filing contempt cases - PIO: AG is not a public authority; Central Agency Section has no information - CIC: matter remanded back to the FAA for denovo consideration after granting an opportunity of hearing
Information about the petition received by the office of AG for India and Solicitor General seeking their consent for filing contempt cases - PIO: AG is not a public authority; Central Agency Section has no information - CIC: considering that the appellant has not been given opportunity of being heard by the FAA, the matter remanded back to the FAA for denovo consideration after granting an opportunity of hearing
The present appeal, filed by Shri R.K. Jain against the Central Agency Section of Department of Legal Affairs, was taken up for hearing on 21.10.2013 when the Respondents were present through Shri Arijit Prasad, Advocate. The Appellant was present in person.
2. The Appellant through his RTI application dated 25.03.2013, filed with the CPIO, Department of Legal Affairs, sought following information:
“(A) Please provide the date wise details of the petitions received by the office of Attorney General of India and the Solicitor General of India from 1-1-2011 till date of providing the information, seeking permission to file contempt of court case.
(B) Please provide the copies of the decision taken by the Attorney General of India or the Solicitor General of India on the aforesaid petitions.
(C) Please provide details of the aforesaid petitions still pending with both of them.”
3. The CAPIO, Department of Legal Affairs vide her letter dated 04.04.2013 transferred this RTI application to the CPIO, Central Agency Section u/s 6(3) o the RTI Act.
4. The CPIO, Central Agency Section vide his letter dated 30.04.2013 informed the Appellant that
“…as per CIC order dated 10.12.2012 (File No. CIC/SM/C/2011/001542 Shri Subhash Chander Agrawal Vs Attorney General for India (decided by full bench) office of AG for India is not a public authority u/s 2 (h) of the RTI Act, as such no information can be given on your application.”
5. Aggrieved by this reply of the CPIO, the Appellant filed an appeal dated 04.05.2013 before the Appellate Authority which the Appellate Authority decided vide his order dated 07.05.2013. The Appellate Authority observed in his order:
“… The CPIO, even though, has sent a reply the applicant herein stating that the Ld. Attorney General for India is not a public authority under Section 2(h) “public authority” means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted (a) by or under the Constitution; (b) by any other law made by Parliament; (c) by any other law made by State Legislature; (d) by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any- (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) non-Government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government; of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and as such no information is required to be given by his office. But, however, he has not informed the applicant that such information is not available with CAS or that the Office of Ld. Attorney General for India and Ld. Solicitor General of India are under the purview of Main Secretariat i.e. Ministry of Law & Justice, Department of Legal Affairs, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi.”
The Appellate Authority accordingly directed the CPIO to send a fresh reply to the Appellant and, in case the information is available with the Central Agency Section, the same may be provided to the Appellant and if not, it may be stated in the reply as to why the information could not be made available by the CPIO.
6. The Appellant then aggrieved by the order of the Appellate Authority filed the present appeal before the Commission.
7. During the hearing, the Appellant produces before the Commission a copy of the reply dated 11.06.2013 of the CPIO given after the order of the Appellate Authority. Through this reply, the CPIO, interalia, informed the Appellant that
“…the replies received from the Litigation Units and from P.S. to AS & I/C, CAS, it appears that Central Agency Section has no information as asked for by you. It is brought to your notice that as per procedure followed in Central Agency Section opinion files are sent back to the concerned Department after the matters are drafted and the complete original file is never retained in Central Agency Section. However, there might by some matters pertaining to DRI and your query regarding the said subject is being transferred to CPIO, DRI with a request to examine the matter and taken appropriate action.”
8. The counsel for the Respondents reiterates the above statement during the hearing and submits that the Central Agency Section do not keep any file with it. According to him, the files which come to the Central Agency Section for opinion are sent back to the concerned department after rendering its advice/opinion on the given matter or drafting the petition, as the case may be. The Central Agency Section does not keep any file with it. He (counsel for the Respondents) thus denies the availability of information with the Respondents.
9. The Appellant, however, disputes the statement of the Respondents and argues that the information sought by him is about the petition received by the office of Attorney General for India and the Solicitor General of India seeking their consent for filing contempt cases in the court. According to him such petitions are filed by the general public or associations, and not by the government departments. The Appellant, in support, also produces before the Commission “Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of the Supreme Court, 1975” and brings the Commission’s attention to para 3 (c) of said rules which reads as follows:
“3. In case of contempt other than the contempt referred to in rule 2, the Court may take action:( a) XXXXXX (b) XXXXXX (c) on a petition made by any person, and in the case of a criminal contempt with the consent in writing of the Attorney General or the Solicitor General.”
10. He thus faults the Respondents to misinterpreting his queries, thereby causing obstruction to the transmission of information to him. He also complains regarding nongrant of hearing to him by the Appellate Authority, although he had specifically requested for the same in his appeal to the Appellate Authority. He also, while referring to para 5 of the order of the Appellate Authority, complains that he has not been provided with copy of brief note submitted by the CPIO before the Appellate Authority.
11. Having heard the submissions and perused the records, and considering the Appellant’s complaint that he has not been given opportunity of being heard by the Appellate Authority, the Commission considers it appropriate to remand this matter back to the Appellate Authority for denovo consideration after granting an opportunity of hearing to the Appellant.
12. The matter is accordingly hereby remanded back to the Appellate Authority with a direction that he should grant an opportunity of hearing to the Appellant and examine the matter denovo and then pass a speaking order in the matter.
13. Appeal is disposed of with the above directions, which are to be complied with within 3 weeks of receipt of this order.
Citation: Shri R.K. Jain v. Department of Legal Affairs in Case No.CIC/SS/A/2013/001638