SC cannot deny information under RTI Act
Earlier, in a number of cases, the then Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah had held that if there were existing laws and rules for furnishing information in an organisation, information seeker had to use them and not the Right to Information Act.
Accepting the arguments of the Supreme Court, he had said that as per Section 22 of the RTI Act, the transparency law would prevail over the existing laws only when there is "inconsistency" between the two.
The apex court had argued that since it already had a mechanism for furnishing information on judicial proceedings and documents, under the Supreme Court rules, these records cannot be provided under the RTI Act as there was no "inconsistency" between the two.
Setting aside these arguments, Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has now said, "This Commission respectfully disagrees with the decision of the then Chief Information Commissioner that the PIO, Supreme Court may choose to deny the information sought under the RTI Act and ask an applicant to apply for information under Order XII of the SC Rules."
He said where there are methods of giving information by any public authority which were in existence before the advent of the RTI Act, the citizen may insist on invoking the provisions of the RTI Act to obtain the information.
"It is the citizen`s prerogative to decide under which mechanism i.e. under the method prescribed by the public authority or the RTI Act, he/she would like to obtain the information," Gandhi said.
The case relates to RTI applicant R S Mishra who sought to know from the Supreme Court, through nine queries, the status report on certain letters and reasons for judicial decisions, but the information was denied to him.
He was advised by the Supreme Court to come through its rules for getting requisite documents.
The Commission would like to highlight that just as the SC Rules put in place by the apex court are not abrogated, the RTI Act passed by Parliament also cannot be suspended, Gandhi said.
"If the PIO has received a request for information under the RTI Act, the information shall be provided to the applicant as per the provisions of the RTI Act and any denial of the same must be in accordance with Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act only," he said.
Gandhi said an information seeker who has filed application under the RTI Act "cannot be forced" to obtain the information as per order XII of the SC Rules.