RTI can be used even if information not relevant or germane and even if applicant has access to material through other means; Delhi HC [Read the Judgment]

RTI can be used even if information not relevant or germane and even if applicant has access to material through other means; Delhi HC [Read the Judgment]

Setting aside an order passed by the CIC, the Delhi High Court remanded a case back to CIC for consideration in the light of the observations. Justice Vibhu Bakhru emphasized on two points, first being that the question whether the information sought by the petitioner is relevant or necessary, is not relevant or germane in the context of the Act; a citizen has a right to information by virtue of Section 3 of the Act and the same is not conditional on the information being relevant. The second point was that the petitioner has access to the material relied upon by the prosecution does not prevent him from seeking information, which he considers necessary for his defence

The petitioner, Mr. Adesh Kumar had challenged an order dated 16.04.2014 passed by the Central Information Commission rejecting the petitioner’s appeal against an order passed by the First Appellate Authority. The FAA had denied the petitioner’s appeal challenging the CPIO’s order to deny information sought by the petitioner.

The petitioner was posted as Superintendent Engineer, CPWD, Patna. During his tenure, an FIR was lodged and charge sheet was submitted against him.

The petitioner had demanded communications between Ministry of Urban Development and CBI, in the corruption case. The request for information as denied claiming that there was no obligation to provide the same by virtue of Section 8(1) (h) of the Act which allows an organization to withhold such information that impedes the process of investigation, apprehension and prosecution.

Referring to section 8(1) (h) of the Act, the Court observed, “A plain reading of the aforesaid provision indicates that information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders could be denied…..In the present case, neither the FAA nor the CIC has considered as to how the information as sought for would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of the petitioner and other accused.”

The Court observed, “A bare perusal of the order passed by the FAA also indicates that the aspect as to how the disclosure of information would impede prosecution has not been considered. Merely, citing that the information is exempted under Section 8(1) (h) of the Act would not absolve the public authority from discharging its onus as required to claim such exemption.”

Earlier in August, Prof. Shamnad Basheer, founder of SpicyIP, had filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court seeking overriding powers of RTI Act against other Statutes and for declaring S.144 of Patent Act ultravires. He had prayed to declare that the mechanism under the Right to Information Act, 2005 overrides all other mechanisms under any other statute or rule for discharge of information from public authorities to the extent of inconsistencies therein. Read the petition here.

Read the judgment here