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Supreme Court Issues Notice On Plea Seeking Effective Implementation Of Section 4 Of Right To Information Act

Sohini Chowdhury
21 Jan 2022 8:20 AM GMT
Supreme Court Issues Notice On Plea Seeking Effective Implementation Of Section 4 Of Right To Information Act
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On Friday, the Supreme Court issued notice in a Writ Petition seeking effective implementation of the mandate of Section 4 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 ("RTI Act") dealing with the obligations of public authorities, which the petitioner claimed to be the soul of the RTI Act without which the statute would be reduced to an "ornamental legislation". A Bench comprising...

On Friday, the Supreme Court issued notice in a Writ Petition seeking effective implementation of the mandate of Section 4 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 ("RTI Act") dealing with the obligations of public authorities, which the petitioner claimed to be the soul of the RTI Act without which the statute would be reduced to an "ornamental legislation".

A Bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M. Sundresh though initially hesitant to take up the matter, unsure of the nature of relief that could be granted qua the prayer sought by the Petitioner, finally agreed to hear the matter in detail.

At the outset, the Petitioner, Mr. K.C. Jain apprised the Bench that there were three writ petitions pending before it, which sought effective implementation of various provisions of the RTI Act. Similarly, his petition also seeks compulsory implementation of Section 4, and more particularly Section 4(2) mandating public authorities to suo moto disclose vital information about their functioning as enumerated in Section 4(1)(b). Section 4(2) reads as under:

"Section 4 -

[...]

(2) It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority to take steps in accordance with the requirements of clause (b) of sub-section (1) to provide as much information suo motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including internet, so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information."

Mr. Jain submitted -

"Three Writ Petitions are pending consideration before this Hon'ble Court for effective implementation of various provisions of the RTI Act. This petition seeks effective implementation of the mandate of Section 4 which is the soul of the RTI Act, the transparency law without which it remains an ornamental legislation. There should be suo moto disclosure of all vital information. Section 4(2) embodies this mandate of suo moto proactive disclosures."

It was asserted that the reports of the Central Information Commission ("CIC") reflects poor compliance of the mandate of Section 4. Moreover, it was submitted that the Department of Personnel and Training ("DoPT"), the concerned department had issued an Office Memorandum ("OM") requiring third party audit, which witnessed poor participation i.e. only one-third of the public authorities participated.

"The reports of CIC indicate that there is poor compliance of Section 4 mandate. We pray that the mandate be given effect to. The DoPT has also issued an OM saying that there should be a third party audit also and the report shows that only one-third of the public authority went for such an audit. The performance was poor. CIC reports of 2018-19 and 2019-20 are on record. Once disclosure is proper it would make a major change in transparency law."

The Bench expressed its concern that when a statute comes into force, the mandate of the statute, undoubtedly needs to to be followed and there ought not to be a requirement for the Court to issue directions in that regard.

"What is the meaning of this that the disclosure should be proper? The Legislature has a mechanism to implement legislation. What is the point of issuing a direction that the mandate of a statute should be followed. Of course it should be followed. What mandamus is to be issued in this?"

Mr. Jain clarified that the OM issued by the DoPT in compliance with Section 26 of the RTI Act provides a mechanism that every public authority should go for third party audit. The OM also suggests that the CIC is to look into the audit report. Mr. Jain submitted that a perusal of the report would make it clear that the mandate was not being followed as only one-third of the public authorities had participated in the audit.

Considering the instructions in the OM and the report of the CIC, the Bench agreed to issue notice and tagged the writ petition with the other similar petitions pending before the Court.

[Case Title: Kishan Jain v. Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 990 of 2021]

Click Here To Read/Download Order


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