Can't Invoke Article 226 To Impose Penalties U/S 20 RTI Act Against Information Officers: Kerala High Court

Tellmy Jolly

20 Sep 2023 5:30 AM GMT

  • Cant Invoke Article 226 To Impose Penalties U/S 20 RTI Act Against Information Officers: Kerala High Court

    The Kerala High Court has recently held that writ jurisdiction under Article 226 cannot be invoked to impose penalties against the Information Officers under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI).Justice Murali Purushothaman ruled that the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission was the competent authority under section 20 of the Act to order penalties against...

    The Kerala High Court has recently held that writ jurisdiction under Article 226 cannot be invoked to impose penalties against the Information Officers under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI).

    Justice Murali Purushothaman ruled that the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission was the competent authority under section 20 of the Act to order penalties against the Information Officers.

    β€œ...the authority competent to impose penalty as contemplated under Section 20 of the Act on the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer is the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be and the petitioner cannot approach this Court invoking its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.”

    The petitioner filed a request for information under the RTI with the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) but received no response within the statutory timeframe.

    Subsequently, the petitioner approached the First Appellate Authority under Section 19 of the Act. However, this appeal was rejected and the appellate authority upheld the decision of the CPIO. The petitioner was informed of their right to file a Second Appeal before the Central Information Commission in New Delhi under section 19(3) within 90 days and an address was also provided. The petitioner filed a second appeal, but it was returned as the addressee could not be located.

    Aggrieved by this, the petitioner preferred an appeal before the High Court against the CPIO and First Appellate Authority.

    The Counsel for the petitioner argued that the First Appellate Authority wrongfully and willfully provided the wrong address of the Central Information Commission, New Delhi. It was also contended that the CPIO failed to provide information as mandated under the RTI Act. It was submitted that both the CPIO and the First Appellate Authority are bound to pay a penalty under Section 20.

    The issue posited before the Court was whether the petitioner could invoke the jurisdiction of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for direction to the CPIO and the appellate authority to pay the penalty as contemplated under Section 20 of the Act.

    The Court examined Chapter V of the Act, which deals with the powers and functions of Information Commissions, appeals, and penalties.

    Section 18 outlined the powers and functions of Information Commissions, allowing them to inquire into complaints related to information requests and refusals. Section 20 of the Act addressed penalties for non-compliance, specifying that the imposition of penalties on Information Officers falls under the jurisdiction of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission.

    Consequently, it held that the competent authority to order penalty under section 20 against the CPIO and State Public Information Officer was the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission. It ruled that the petitioner cannot approach the Court under Article 226 of the Constitution seeking the imposition of penalties under Section 20.

    The writ petition was accordingly dismissed, granting liberty to the petitioner to approach the appropriate authority.

    Counsel for the Petitioner: Advocate K S Praveen

    Counsel for the respondents: Advocate Benny P Thomas

    Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 492

    Case title: Sanoj V K V Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd.

    Case number: WP(C) NO. 22483 OF 2023

    Click Here to Download/Read Judgment


    Next Story