My talk of about 50 minutes on RTI, Information Commissions, Judiciary and governance of December 2012 – Shailesh Gandhi
Very often the orders given by Information Commissions are stayed by the High Courts without any reference to the RTI applicant.
Such cases languish for long periods and are effectively lost because most applicants find it difficult pursue them.
Thus public authorities render the orders of the Commissions on giving information, penalties and others ineffective.
Section 23 of the RTI Act clearly states:”No court shall entertain any suit, application or other proceeding in respect of any order made under this Act and no such order shall be called in question otherwise than by way of an appeal under this Act.” However courts entertain most of these under their writ jurisdiction. My considered view is that most of these cases are appeals wrongly labelled as Writs.
In most cases the applicant is not even informed about the hearing in which the stay is given. Article 226 (3) of the Constitution is a remedy for such conditions.
I have often wanted to challenge these practices and when the Maharashtra Commission issued an order confirming that Mumbai Metro was a public authority, i had prepared my challenge on these grounds ( with generous help from young advocate Sandeep Jalan). As luck would have it, Reliance did not challenge the order and hence i missed the opportunity. When i was talking with Anjali Bhardwaj this morning she suggested that i should share the draft, so that these grounds could be used. I am attaching the 1500 word petition.
A few changes to suit your particular case may be required. I would be glad to assist. An applicant could file such a petition and
Alternately, Sandeep Jalan may be willing to give professional help His contact: Sandeep Jalan ; 9820671212
Courtesy : Shailesh Gandhi
PIOs ask applicants to come and inspect records even for simple information. When an applicant,- after some effort,- manages to get a time from the PIO to inspect a bunch of files is offered and the applicant is told to find the information.
The Municipal Commissioner has now issued a circular to ensure that PIOs deal with applicants in a proper manner. Firstly it instructs PIOs not to ask applicants to come for inspection when information requests are simple and not voluminous. Even when an applicant is asked to come for inspection it requires a PIO to ensure indexing and numbering all the pages. It also requires a PIO to inform the file numbers to the applicant and offering three alternate dates with timings. This circular will reduce a lot of pain for RTI applicants and they should show it to PIOs if asked to inspect files. All government departments, including DOPT should issue similar directions to PIOs.
This is a very good initiative and must be appreciated and replicated.
Attaching the English translation of the circular
Courtesy : Shailesh Gandhi
GOVERNMENT DIRECTION TO CHS FOR MAKING DOCUMENTS AVAILABLE TO MEMBERS AND EVEN TO AUTHORISED 3 RD PARTY
This is a initiative which could strengthen our RTI Act significantly.
There is now legal help available for RTI users and activists who have been facing two significant problems:
- Threats and attacks when trying to challenge corruption and illegalities.
- Even when they get significant orders from the Information Commissions, these are stayed by courts. Most RTI users do not have the resources to fight these in courts. These stays continue and the information never gets revealed, or the cases are lost since the arguments for disclosure and upholding the decisions of the Information Commission may never be made before the courts.
We are lucky that Supreme Court lawyer Colin Gonsalves heading Human Rights Law Networks (HRLN ) has agreed that RTI users are Human Rights Defenders and offered their services without charging legal fees in such matters. This is a great step and opportunity for everyone in the country. This can help us to strengthen Right to Information and deepen our democracy.
Here is how we can use this fantastic opportunity:
- In case of threats or false police cases because of RTI applications approach the HRLN contact in your state. There are 24 HRNL units across the nation who can help.
- In case of assault approach the HRLN units and also approach the State or CentralCommission and request action as per the Central Commission’s attached resolution. RTI users should try and persuade their State commissions to pass similar resolution.
- When a significant order of the Information Commission is stayed, approach the HRNL unit for help. If they are convinced about the merits of the case, they will represent you in the court without charging any legal fees.
This is a great opportunity which can help RTI users and we should make proper use of it.
Please spread this note to all RTI users, email lists and organizations which use RTI.
On behalf of everyone in the RTI movement I thank Colin Gonsalves and HRLN for this outstanding offer.
Attached: 1. HRLN’s units- contact details
- HRLN proposal
- CIC resolution
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Mera Bharat Mahaan..
Per Yeh Dosh Mera Hai.