State Info Commission bows to judiciary on RTI Act applicability
Posted by rtiact2005 on October 12, 2006
|State Info Commission bows to judiciary on RTI Act applicability|
|While the RTI Act completes one year of existence on Thursday, no apparatus for dissemination of information under the RTI Act, 2005, has yet been created by the Bombay High Court. A Solapur citizen, therefore, failed to receive any information from the judiciary and the State Information Commissioner dismissing his appeal has avoided any confrontation with the judiciary|
Pune, October 10; The Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, applies to the judiciary. Even the Supreme Court of India has designated its own public information officer (PIO) and the appellate authority (AA) to process requisitions filed under the Act seeking information from the judiciary. The State Information Commission of Maharashtra, however, in a decision on September 27 has endorsed the decision of the District and Sessions Court in Solapur denying information to a requisitioner because no rules have been framed by the judiciary in the State and as such no requisition can be entertained. The judiciary is expected, under the RTI Act, to frame its own rules for dissemination of information under the Act. Apart from the Supreme Court, a few high courts in the country like Karnataka have already framed the rules and designated PIOs and AAs as required by the Act. Some, like the Bombay High Court, have still not created the apparatus. The Solapur district and session court being administered by the Bombay High Court has no other choice than to abide by a circular issued by the high court administration that the application of the RTI Act to judiciary was still under consideration and as such no PIOs and AAs had been designated in Maharashtra. But Dr Suresh Joshi, chief information commissioner of Maharashtra, has powers to direct the high court to expedite framing of rules and setting up of the apparatus in all district courts for dissemination of information under the Act. It is already late by a year. Joshi, however, apparently decided to play it safe and avoid a confrontation with the judiciary.
As for the requisitioner, Angad Keshavrao Panchal, a resident of 169/Chitrakut building, Dnyaneshwar Nagar, Twin Solapur, Solapur – 4, the only remedy left is to file a writ petition against the decision of the state information commission, ironically, with the same Bombay High Court. Going by the details of the matters noted by chief commissioner Joshi in his decision (on appeal 2006/407 A/02), Panchal on November 14, 2005, harnessed the newly implemented RTI Act demanded from the Registrar of District and Sessions Court at Solapur information on pending criminal matters. The administration of the court promptly responded on November 24 and informed him that the RTI Act had not applied to the judiciary yet. Panchal, scrupulously going by the provisions of the RTI Act, regarded this as a refusal to provide information by the public information officer of the court, filed the first appeal with the ‘‘appellate authority’’ of the court on January 12, 2006 and submitted it in the office of the registrar of the district court. Quoting information commissioner Joshi from his decision (which is in Marathi), in response, S L Bhagat, district judge, Solapur, wrote to the requisitioner stating that
a) a reply had already been given to his communication on November 24, 2005, b) the requisitioner, therefore, should not continue any correspondence in the matter with the administration of the court,
c) otherwise strict action would be taken against him and
d) his second letter dated January 12 was filed.
Panchal, again going by the provisions of the RTI Act, took this as the refusal by the appellate authority and filed the second appeal with the state information commission on March 10.
The matter came up for hearing on September 27. Requisitioner Panchal was present. District and Sessions Judge of Solapur S L Bhagat, who apparently was summoned for hearing by a communication from the commission on August 25, wrote back saying:
a) The Hon High Court of Bombay by its circular number R/1611/48/2006 issued on February 15, 2006 has stated that the matter regarding applicability of the Right to Information Act, 2005, to the judiciary is under consideration of the Supreme Court of India and the High Court of Bombay.
b) Accordingly, the High Court has not yet designated the district and sessions judges as appellate authorities (under the RTI Act) and registrars of district courts as public information officer.
c) As such, this office is of the opinion that provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, are not applicable to the judiciary in the present circumstances.
Information Commissioner Joshi in his decision accepted this contention of the Solapur district and sessions judge and dismissed the second appeal. Joshi, in addition, quoted a communication received earlier from the High Court of Bombay informing the commission that draft rules under the Act had been framed and the process of getting the approval of the Competent Authority under the RTI Act (that is, the chief justice of the high court) was still on. In the meantime, tomorrow, on October 12, the RTI Act completes one year of its existence.