10 Jan 2023 3:44 PM GMT
The Punjab and Haryana High Court last week issued a notice to the Central Information Commission (CIC), Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and others in an appeal moved challenging Single Judge's order upholding the Chief Information Commission's order denying information regarding the PM CARES Fund details. It may be noted that dismissing the appeal against the CIC order, the Single...
The Punjab and Haryana High Court last week issued a notice to the Central Information Commission (CIC), Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and others in an appeal moved challenging Single Judge's order upholding the Chief Information Commission's order denying information regarding the PM CARES Fund details.
It may be noted that dismissing the appeal against the CIC order, the Single Judge had observed that since both the authorities, the office of CPIO and the CIC, are situated in New Delhi, and since they do not fall within the territorial jurisdiction of the High Court, therefore, it was not possible to entertain the instant plea.
Read more about the Single Judge's order here: Punjab & Haryana High Court Dismisses Plea Filed Challenging CIC Order Denying PM CARES Fund Details
Aggrieved with the same, petitioner Nitin Mittoo moved an LPA arguing that the writ Court could exercise jurisdiction where the action wholly or in part arises and the order was communicated within the jurisdiction of the High Court.
It was further argued that since the petitioner received the impugned order of the CIC at Phagwara in the State of Punjab, therefore, the High Court would be having jurisdiction to deal with the appeal against CIC's order.
It was also submitted that as per the judgment passed in Centre for Public Interest Litigation Vs. Union of India, AIR 2020 (Supreme Court) 5075, respondent No.4 (PM CARES) has been held to be a Public Charitable Trust registered under the Registration Act, 1908, and not a Government fund.
Having heard the preliminary arguments of the counsel for the petitioner, the bench of Justice Gurmeet Singh Sandhawalia and Justice Gurbir Singh issued the notice of motion for the reply of respondents on April 17, 2023.
The case in brief
On June 7, 2020, the petitioner sought information from respondent no.3 [Public Information Officer, PMO] under the Right to Information Act 2005 regarding the cabinet resolution and other information related to the advertisement of the PM CARES FUND on the government domain website.
The petitioner also sought permission letters and the amount paid by PM CARES Fund for getting its advertisement on government websites all over India and even at websites of various other world forums.
On June 15, 2020, respondent no.3 denied providing the information to the petitioner solely on the grounds that since the information was related to PM CARES fund, and the same does not fall under the ambit of public authority under the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Thereafter, he moved to the First appellate authority [First appellate authority, PMO] by way of filing the first appeal. However, upholding the order of the PIO, the PMO, the first appellate authority also dismissed the first appeal.
Against that order, he moved a second appeal before the Chief Information Commission. The appeal remained pending and that is why he moved a writ petition before the High Court earlier in November 2021 seeking a direction to the CIC to decide his appeal.
While the plea was pending consideration, the CIC decided his appeal upholding the order of the CPIO on February 14, 2022. Since the appeal had been deiced, therefore, the plea was disposed of as having been rendered infructuous.
Now, in the instant plea, he challenged the order of the CIC (in the second appeal of the petitioner) arguing that since he received the impugned order at Phagwara in the State of Punjab, therefore, the High Court would be having jurisdiction to deal with the appeal against CIC's order.
Single Judge's order
The Single Judge had noted that the first appeal of the petitioner was decided by the Authority situated at New Delhi and the Commission, which passed the impugned order, is also situated in New Delhi and since such authorities are located outside the territorial jurisdiction of the High Court, therefore, it shall not give any cause of action to the petitioner (either partly or wholly) in terms of the clause (2) of Article 226 of the Constitution.
Consequently, the plea was dismissed. Challenging this very order, the Petitioner moved an LPA.