If Law Provides, Public Authority Under Obligation To Get Info From Pvt Body And Share With RTI Applicant: Delhi HC [Read Judgment]
If a public authority has a right and is entitled to access information from a private body under any other law, it is “information” as defined in Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act and the public authority is under an obligation to get that information from the private body and furnish the same to the RTI Applicant, the Delhi High Court has held.
Justice Suresh Kumar Kait was faced with the question that, “If the service provider declined to furnish the information sought on the ground that service provider is not a public authority and does not come under RTI Act, 2005, then, whether the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) who is regulating services, is appropriate authority?”
Justice Kait held that, “It is settled that an interpretation which renders another provision or part thereof redundant or superfluous should be avoided. Information, as defined in Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act, includes in its ambit, the information relating to any private body which can be assessed by public authority under any law for the time being in force. Therefore, if a public authority has a right and is entitled to access information from a private body, under any other law, it is “information” as defined in Section 2 (f) of the RTI Act. Thus, it is obligation on the public authority to get the information from the private body and furnish the same to the applicant”.
By holding so, the court dismissed an appeal moved by TRAI against the September 12, 2018 order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) wherein it had been directed to provide information sought by an applicant, Kabir Shankar Bose, about his registered mobile number.
Bose, a barrister in the Supreme Court, had sought to know from Vodafone India if his mobile phone number is under surveillance and if yes, then on whose direction and by which agency has it been placed under surveillance or tracking or trapping.
Vodafone India denied him the information stating that it was not a “public authority” under the RTI Act, 2005.
Bose then moved the CIC which asked TRAI to get the information from Vodafone India and share the same with him.
Before the high court, TRAI submitted that the CIC had failed to appreciate the fact that the information sought by Bose was not a part of TRAI’s record and is therefore, not required to be furnished by it under any law or the rules or regulations.
It argued that the RTI Act does not cast an obligation upon the TRAI to collect or collate such non-available information and then furnish it to an applicant.
TRAI also submitted that Bose ought to have approached the authority provided under Telecom Consumer Complaint Redressal Regulations, 2012 for redressal of his grievance.
Justice Kait held that, “Under Section 12 of the TRI Act, 1997, the petitioners has power to call for any information, conduct investigations, etc., where, the authority considers it expedient so to do, it may by order in writing. It cannot be said that the petitioner has no power to call information from the private body i.e. Vodafone India. Admittedly, the petitioner authority is regulating the services in India.”
“It is not in dispute that the petitioner has sought information from the Vodafone Authority which was denied on the ground that it is a private body and it does not come under the purview of RTI Act, 2005, thus, the respondent/applicant cannot be left remediless in view of the powers of the petitioner,” concluded the court.