‘If it is held otherwise, it would negate and lead to derecognising the fundamental right to information as granted under the RTI Act, which is unacceptable.’
Now one can apply for Birth and Death certificates and other documents through RTI. The Punjab and Haryana High court recently allowed a plea of a man who had applied death certificate of his mother through RTI.
Justice Augustine George Masih held that in case of an application preferred under the Right to Information Act where alternative procedure and conditions are prescribed under any other statute/law, the said application cannot be rejected and/or information denied on this ground.
Before the high court, Shakti Singh had challenged the order of State Information Commission that held that he is not entitled to information under the RTI Act and he should, in the light of the provisions of Section 17 of the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969, seek the death certificate as per the procedure prescribed therein.
The court observed: “There being no inconsistency under the RTI Act and the provisions of the other statute/law, the option and prerogative is with the citizen to select and choose to exercise his right under such Act/law or the RTI Act. In case the citizen prefers to move an application under the RTI Act, Public Information Officer, on receipt of such request, shall proceed to take a decision thereon and provide information as a norm and any denial of the same must be in accordance with Sections 8, 9 and 11 only.”
The judge said the right to information, thus, cannot be denied under the RTI Act merely because a statutory mechanism is evolved and prescribed under an Act, which is also applicable, obliging a public authority to share the same by following a prescribed procedure subject to fulfillment of prescribed conditions. If it is held otherwise, it would negate and lead to derecognising the fundamental right to information as granted under the RTI Act, which is unacceptable, he added. He held as follows:
Setting aside the commission’s order, the court said: “The Commission has rejected the claim of the petitioner under the RTI Act proceeding upon the wrong assumption that the 6 of 7 Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969, being a legislation and statutory in nature, is not overridden by the RTI Act. It may be added here that the information under the RTI Act can only be denied if the same is exempted from disclosure of information under the provisions of RTI Act itself such as Sections 8, 9 and 11 thereof.”