PIO asked for Rs 750 per page as the rate for furnishing copy of the reservation chart as per an executive circular by the railways - CIC: Railways to provide the information by claiming photocopying charges as per the RTI Rules, 2012 (Rs 2/- per page)
The appellant sought information that whether any journey ticket in his name was booked in the train Goa Express from the Nizamuddin Rly stn, Delhi for journey between 24.08.2015 to 31.08.2015, name of his co-passengers in the said train etc. The CPIO vide letter dated 29.07.2016 asked reimbursement of photocopying charges for copying passenger reservation charts at the rate specified in their commercial circular no 65 of 2011. The appellant was not satisfied with the reply and filed first appeal on 06.07.2016. The First Appellate Authority vide order dated 29.08.2016 concurred with the CPIO’s reply. Aggrieved with the non-supply of the desired information from the respondent authority, the appellant filed a second appeal under the provision of Section 19 of the RTI Act before the Central Information Commission on 28.10.2016.
Grounds for Second Appeal
The CPIO did not provide the desired information.
Appellant : Present
Respondent : PIO, Shri Ashok Kumar,
SCM During the hearing the respondent PIO submitted that they had provided the requisite information vide their letter dated 29.07.2016 which is just and proper and hence the case should be dismissed. The appellant submitted that he was not satisfied with the reply received from the respondent.
The appellant relied on the decision of the coordinate bench of the Commission dated 15.01.2016 passed in the case no. CIC/SA/C/2015/901116 and submitted that the executive circular by the railways claiming Rs 750 as the rate for furnishing copy of the reservation chart for each PNR number mentioned therein is not maintainable under the RTI Act. The operative part of the above stated decision of the CIC reads as follows:
“34. Thus the high cost of Rs 750 per paper for securing copy of answersheet and time conditions such that appellant has to approach only after 61 days and before 75 days after result declared will unreasonably restrict the right to access to his own answer book and breakup of marks awarded.”
The Commission took note of the above decision and on studying the said order of the coordinate bench meticulously noted that the above order was based on the decision of the Hon’ble Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur Bench in the matter of Alka Matoria vs Maharaja Ganga Singh University & Ors (D.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 12471/2012) on 21.12.2012 in which it was held that
“the questioned condition in the regulations of the respondent university i.e. condition No. 2 as regards charging of Rs 1000/- as fees for providing copies of the answer-books is declared illegal and is quashed. The respondent university shall be required to provide the necessary information after charging the fee as contemplated by the Rajasthan Rules of 2005 and not beyond.”
Maharaja Ganga Singh University, Bikaner, approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the judgement of the Hon’ble Rajasthan High Court by filing a Special Leave Petition, SLP(C) No. 014126/2013. The SLP was called for hearing on April 22, 2013. The Bench comprising Mr. Justice R.M. Lodha and Mr. Justice Kurian Joseph heard Mr. H.D. Thanvi and Mr. Sarad Kumar Singhania, advocates for the petitioner university. The Bench held:
“Heard counsel for the petitioner. Special Leave Petition is dismissed.”
The coordinate bench of the CIC had also relied on the decision of the order dated 01.06.2012 of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of the Registrar of Companies and others versus Dharmendra Kumar Garg. In this case the Hon’ble Delhi High Court had held as under
“information, in respect of which there is a statutory mechanism evolved (independent of the RTI Act) which obliges the public authority to share the same with the citizens by following the prescribed procedures, and upon fulfilment of the prescribed conditions, cannot be said to be information which is held by or under the control of any public authority.”
Thus there appears to be two contradictory views on the issue of furnishing of copies of answer-sheet, question paper, reservation chart for a train journey etc. The first interpretation is where a public authority has prescribed certain fee for providing a particular piece of information under an executive mechanism, the same mechanism would prevail. The other point of view i.e. the rates prescribed under the RTI mechanism i.e. Rule 4 of the RTI Rules 2012 would prevail over those fixed by the public authority under their administrative mechanism, gets support from a judgement passed by the Hon’ble Rajasthan High Court in the case of Alka Matoria Vs Maharaja Ganga Singh University.
The contradictory view is not yet settled. The Commission observed that, in a similar subject matter, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the matter of Paras Jain Vs Company Secretaries in LPA. 275/2014 dated 26/04/2014 held that as per the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, Rs.2/- shall be charged as the rate of photocopying charge of each page of the requisite documents under Rule 4 of the RTI Rules, 2012. However, the Companies Secretary Association had challenged this order in the apex court and the Hon’ble Supreme Court vide its order in SLP (C) no. 12692/2014 dated 09/05/2014 had stayed the said order of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi.
1. The High Court of Delhi in the matter of Registrar of Companies & Ors. Versus Dharmendra Kumar Garg & Ors. In the WP (C) No. 11271/2009, vide its decision dated 01.06.2012 held as under:
“35. The mere prescription of a higher charge in the other statutory mechanism (in this case section 610 of the Companies Act, that that prescribed under the RTI Act does not make any difference whatsoever.......The said rules being statutory in nature and specific in their application, do not get overridden by the rules framed under the RTI Act with regard to prescription of fee for supply of information, which is general in nature, and apply to all kinds of applications made under the RTI Act to seek information.”
2. In the matter of Paras Jain Vs Company Secretaries in LPA. 275/2014 the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi vide its decision dated 26/04/2014 held as under:
“5. It is trite that an executive instruction if in violation of a statutory rule or a regulation must yield to the statutory rule or regulation.
6. Thus, the demand by the respondents from the petitioner to pay fee in sum of Rs. 500/- per subject/answer book copy whereof is sought is not sustainable.
7. We dispose of appeal quashing guideline No. 3 notified by the respondent and declare that for the answer sheets copy whereof is sought by the appellant he shall be charged fee as per Rule 4 of the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005.”
Moreover, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in SLP (C) No. 12692/2014 dated 09/05/2014 had stayed the aforesaid judgment of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in LPA. 275/2014 dated 26/04/2014.
2. The Hon’ble Rajasthan High Court (bench at Jodhpur) held in the case of Alka Matoria vs Maharaja Ganga Singh University & Ors (D.B. Civil Writ Petition No. 12471/2012) on 21.12.2012 that
“the questioned condition in the regulations of the respondent university i.e. condition No. 2 as regards charging of Rs. 1000/- as fees for providing copies of the answer-books is declared illegal and is quashed. The respondent university shall be required to provide the necessary information after charging the fee as contemplated by the Rajasthan Rules of 2005 and not beyond.”
Maharaja Ganga Singh University, Bikaner, approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court against the judgement of the Hon’ble Rajasthan High Court by filing a Special Leave Petition SLP(C) No. 014126/2013. The case was called for hearing on April 22, 2013. The Bench comprising Mr. Justice R.M. Lodha and Mr. Justice Kurian Joseph heard Mr. H.D. Thanvi and Mr. Sarad Kumar Singhania, advocates for the petitioner-university. The Bench held:
“Heard counsel for the petitioner. Special Leave Petition is dismissed.”
On conjoint reading of the above orders, it was observed that the Supreme Court in the SLP petition filed by Maharaja Ganga Singh University against the decision of the Rajasthan High Court was dismissed in limine by the Apex Court. Regarding the decision of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in the case of Paras Jain, the Supreme Court has stayed the matter and it is pending for final decision of the Hon’ble court. Therefore, the Commission seeks to arrive at the conclusion that as the Hon’ble Supreme Court has not yet decided on the matter of applicability of administrative rule vis-a-vis the rule prescribed under rule 4 of the RTI Rules, 2012 in regard to the fixation of copying charge for supply of 7 information held by the public authority concerned under the provisions of the RTI Act, the existing RTI Rule shall prevail in the present case.
It is also relevant to note that the Commission had earlier in similar subject matters not interfered with the circular of the railway board as it was not brought to the knowledge of the Commission that the Hon’ble Supreme Court had summarily dismissed the prayer by the respondent against the decision of the Rajasthan HC in the Maharaja Ganga Singh University case, in which the relevant RTI Rules was upheld overriding the University rules for providing photocopy of the documents sought for under the RTI Act.
In view of the above, the respondent authority is directed to provide the sought for information as available on record by claiming photocopying charges as per the RTI Rules 2012 and as applicable u/s 2(f) “information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force; of the RTI Act within 15 days from the receipt of this order. With the above observation, the appeal is disposed of.
Copies of the order be sent to both the parties free of cost.
Citation: Kumar Saurabh v. Northern Railway in File No.: CIC/NRAIL/A/2017/182950-AB, Date of hearing : 17.10.2017