Is a RTI applicant a ‘consumer’ too as per the Consumer Protection Act?
It has been reported that the Registrar of Karnataka State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (KSCDRC), Bangalore, has sent a circular to all the District Forums in the state not to entertain any complaints against the Public Information Officers (PIOs) under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. It has allegedly been done on the request of the Karnataka Information Commissioner (KIC), Bangalore.
The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC) in RP No. 1975/05 S P Thirumala Rao v. Mysore City Corporation, had held that when an applicant pays a fee of Rs. 10/- for seeking any information, he is a consumer and any RTI applicant who is aggrieved by the deficiency in service can claim compensation.
In the second appellate order dated July 17, 2012 in K Venugopal vs Tahsildar and PIO, Bellary Taluk, Bellary district (KIC 12026 PTN 2011), the Karnataka Information Commissioner J S Virupakshaiah directed that a copy of the order be sent to the president, District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Bellary, with a request not to hear cases under RTI Act in future. The Karnataka State Information Commission (SIC) directed the undersecretary to send a copy of the order to the Chairman, Karnataka Consumers Redressal Forum, Basava Bhavan, Palace Road, Bangalore, with a request to direct all the Consumers Forums in the state not to entertain Appeals/Complaints filed under the RTI Act.
Now, the Karnataka Consumers Redressal Forum Registrar has sent a circular to all the district forums in the state on August 29, 2012, asking them not to entertain complaints or appeals against PIOs under RTI Act. Activists have deplored the move and have called for withdrawal of the circular. The president of the KSCDRC, who is a High Court judge, has been criticised for failure to assert his power as a superior judicial officer and for his failure to interpret the law.