The Bombay High Court has held that Right to Information Act 2005 does not confer the power of review upon the Information Commissioners and allowed a petition filed by a 60-year-old man from Nagpur.
Justice AS Chandurkar of the Nagpur bench heard the writ petition filed by Dominic Philip, who filed an application before The Principal and Information Officer, St. John's High School, Nagpur in May 2013 seeking some information under the act.
However, the petitioner received a reply stating that since the said school is not a public authority, the information sought was not liable to be supplied.
On June 14, 2013 the petitioner reiterated his demand for information under RTI and then filed an appeal before the first appellate authority under Section 19(1) of the RTI act. Thereafter, on August 30, 2013, the first appellate authority directed the respondent school to supply the petitioner with requisite information with seven days.
One more appeal was filed by the petitioner under Section 19(2) of the act as the information he sought was not supplied to him even after these directions by the commission. The Information Commission on January 15, 2015, allowed the said appeal and also directed the school to show cause as to why penalty should not be imposed upon them under Section 20 of the act as earlier directions to furnish information were not complied with.
Since that order was not complied with, the petitioner moved a fresh complaint under Section 18(1)(e) of the said act and by an order dated October 19, 2015, the State Information Commissioner held that the respondent school was not liable to furnish the requisite information as initially directed.
Petitioner's counsel GM Shitut submitted that it was not open for the State Information Commission to hold that the initial complaint did not deserve adjudication as it was beyond the scope of the said act. He submitted that the earlier orders passed against the school were not challenged and therefore on that count, the impugned order was liable to be set aside.
On the other hand, Bernard John, counsel for the respondent school submitted that since all requisite information was provided to the petitioner, there was no reason to file a further complaint under Section 18(1)(e) of the said Act. He also argued that it was brought to the notice of the State Information Commission that the Institution was not receiving any grant-in-aid, it was rightly held that the provisions of the said Act were not applicable.
Court accepted the fact that State Information Commission exceeded his jurisdiction and noted-
"By passing the impugned order, the State Information Commission has in fact set aside the order which was operating in favour of the petitioner without the same being challenged by the respondent no.2. The power of review not being an inherent power and the same not having been conferred under the provisions of the said Act, its exercise by the State Information Commission is beyond its jurisdiction. It is thus clear that the impugned order suffers from exercise of jurisdiction not conferred. A fresh consideration of the said proceedings is therefore warranted."
Thus, the order by State Information Commission was set aside and the complaint filed by the petitioner u/S.18 (1)(e) was restored.
Click here to download the judgment