Madras High Court Division Bench comprising of Justice N. Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice K. Ravichandra babu has withdrawn its directive in Public Information Officer Vs. Central Information Commission and Others that RTI Applicants must give reasons for seeking information under Right to Information Act 2005. The original Judgment was delivered on 17.9.2014 [first reported by LiveLaw]. Today the Bench admitted that “The observations were made without noticing Sec. 6(2) of the RTI Act,”. Reports New Indian Express.
The Bench Suo Motu took up the matter and held that “we have made certain general observations in paragraphs 20 and 21 stating that the RTI application should contain bare minimum details or reasons for which the information is sought for. However, the said general observations were made without noticing Sec. 6(2) of the RTI Act,”. It is also stated that “The general observations made in paragraphs 20 and 21 of the said order is an error apparent on the fact of the record, contrary to the statutory provisions. The said error has been noticed by us after pronouncing the order dated September 17 and in order to rectify the said error..., we directed the Registry yesterday (September 22) to post this matter today under the caption suo-motu review.’’
The observation of the Court came after the Judgment was criticized by many Lawyers, Academicians and RTI Activists. "The ruling would definitely weaken the transparency law as it could be misused by the PIOs. The CIC (Central Information Commission) must approach the Supreme Court to review the verdict," said noted RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal.
In the original order the Bench observed that “In fact, a perusal of the pleadings, more particularly, the application made by the second respondent as well as the counter affidavit filed in this Writ Petition, would show that the second respondent has not disclosed even the basic reason for seeking those informations. On the other hand, he has made those applications mechanically, as a matter of routine under the RTI Act.”
Justifying its action, the Court added, “In fact, the first respondent-Commission itself has deprecated the practice of the second respondent herein in overloading the Registry of this Court by making several queries or complaints one after another and following the same under the RTI Act. Having found that the action of the second respondent in sending numerous complaints and representations and then following the same with the RTI applications; that it cannot be the way to redress his grievance; that he cannot overload a public authority and divert its resources disproportionately while seeking information and that the dispensation of information should not occupy the majority of time and resource of any public authority, as it would be against the larger public interest, the first respondent-Commission clearly erred in passing the impugned order in this Writ Petition, directing the petitioner to furnish the details to the second respondent as well as sending a tabular statement listing all the complaints and representations received from the second respondent.”