Monday, July 26, 2010

RTI case : - Dr.Lal Bahadur vs Supreme Court Of India on 12 July, 2010

Dr.Lal Bahadur vs Supreme Court Of India on 12 July, 2010

The Right To Information Act, 2005

Section 19 in The Right To Information Act, 2005

Section 20 in The Right To Information Act, 2005



CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

Appeal No. CIC/WB/A/2009/000378 dated 26.3.2009 Right to Information Act 2005 Section 19

Appellant - Dr. Lal Bahadur

Respondent - Supreme Court of India Heard & Decision announced: 12.7.2010

Facts:

By an application of 6.5.08 Dr. Lal Bahadur of Khajuri, Malipur Distt. Ambedkar Nagar (UP) applied to the Chief Justice of India with an application with the following heading:

"RTI Application under Sec. 6(1) of the Right to Information Act 2005 seeking detail information from the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India with reference to the Assets acquired Return / filed by the Hon'ble the Chief Justice of India and 25 Associate Justices of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India."

However, in the footnote of this application, Dr. Lal Bahadur listed the information sought, as below:

"Give a certified copies of a return (Income Tax) filed by the all 26 (1+25) the Hon'ble Judges of Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in following manner-

a) Date and amount of returns filed by the Hon'ble Judges at the time of elevation as High Court Judge.

b) Date and amount of returns filed by the Hon'ble Judge at the time elevation as a Supreme Court Judge."

This application was, by an order of 15.8.08, transferred by CPIO Shri Ashok Kumar, Additional Registrar, Supreme Court of India to the CPIO Shri K. Gurtu, Director (Justice), Department of Justice, Ministry of Law & Justice. By his letter of 29.5.08, however, CPIO Shri K. Gurtu declined to accept the transfer of the RTI application pleading that, "Perhaps Supreme Court of India could be in a better position to furnish the information, as sought for by the RTI application. As such the Original application is enclosed herewith for your further necessary action."

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Upon this, the CPIO has informed Dr. Lal Bahadur on the very day i.e. 29.5.08, as follows:

"With reference to your application dated 6.5.08, I write to inform you that the information on the subject cited above is neither maintained nor available in the Registry. Your request under the Right to Information Act, 2005 cannot be acceded to."

In his first appeal of 7.7.'08 before Shri M. P. Bhadran, Registrar, Supreme Court of India, appellant Dr. Lal Bahadur has prayed as follows: "a) Issue a direction for furnishing of all relevant information sought by RTI application dated 6.5.08 as well as make available the information from a public Authority i.e. Supreme Court of India.

c) Decide the First Appeal in accordance with a law laid down in Section 19 & 20 of RTI Act, 2005."

Upon this, Shri M. P. Bhadran, Registrar SCI has found as follows: "The appellant has got a case that the impugned order dated 29.5.08 was received by him only on 7.6.08. The appellant submitted that it was dispatched from the Supreme Court of India only on 4.6.2008. Shri Gurtu sent a letter dated 29.5.08 to CPIO Supreme Court of India wherein he has declined to accept the transfer of RTI application and the original application was returned to the CPIO for further necessary action. The appellant has furnished a copy of the above letter along with the appeal memorandum.

The appellant made a request to furnish the information as stated in his application dated 6.5.2008. Now the question to be considered is whether the request of the appellant can be accepted. I find no reason to disagree with the stand taken by the CPIO that the information sought by the appellant is not held by the CPIO. I find that there is no information held by the CPIO to be supplied to the appellant as requested by him."

Dr. Lal Bahadur has then moved his second appeal before us with the following prayer:

"a) Issue order or direction for furnishing of all relevant information sought by RTI application dated 6.5.08 as

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well as make available the information from a public Authority i.e. Supreme Court of India.

b) Decide the second appeal in accordance with law laid down in Sec. 19 & 20 of RTI Act, 2005."

This prayer is grounded on the following contention: "CPIO / Respondent as well as First Appellate Authority ought to have transferred the RTI application dated 6.5.08 till 11.5.08 to another Public Authority in accordance with law laid down in Sec. 6(3) of the RTI Act, wherein it has been mentioned that RTI application may be transferred to another Public Authority within 5 days from the date of RTI application. The delay erroneously transfer of RTI Application against the provision of law laid down in Sec. 6(3) of RTI Act, for which CPIO / Respondent is liable to be penalized as per provisions of Sec. 20 of RTI Act 2005."

The appeal was heard on 12.7.2010. The following are present: Respondents

Ms. Asha Ahuja, Br. Officer, SCI

Mr. Devadatt Kamat, Advocate for SCI

Mr. Nishanth Patil, Advocate

Although arrangement had been made to hear the appeal through video conference with NIC Studio, Ambedkar Nagar and appellant Dr. Lal Bahadur had been informed by Notice dated 17.6.2010 regarding the hearing, he has opted not to be present, even though attempts were made to contact him on all three Cell Numbers provided by him, which went unanswered.

DECISION NOTICE

In this case, the CPIO Supreme Court of India has made it clear that the Supreme Court does not hold the information sought by Dr. Lal Bahadur. In view of this, appellant's prayer before us that the Supreme Court be directed to provide "all relevant information sought by RTI application dated 6.5.08" can hardly be entertained. The only issue here is that when the information was not held by the Registry of the Supreme Court of India why the matter had not been transferred to the concerned Department u/s 6(3). Appellant's own application

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has referred to sec. 6(1) in the very subject of his application, as quoted above. Sec. 6(1) is explicit in that it directs as follows: "Sec. 6

(1) A person, who desires to obtain any information under this Act, shall make a request in writing or through electronic means in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is being made, accompanying such fee as may be prescribed, to

(a) The Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, of the concerned public authority;1

(b) the Central Assistant Public Information Officer or State Assistant Public Information Officer, as the case may be, specifying the particulars of the information sought by him or her:

Provided that where such request cannot be made in writing, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, shall render all reasonable assistance to the person making the request orally to reduce the same in writing."

It should be clear that it is not the Supreme Court that would hold information on the Income Tax returns of High Court Judges even at the time of their elevation as Supreme Court Judges, coming as they are, from different States in the country. Application will then have to be made to the Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance, that administers Income Tax for all. For this purpose the Head Office of the Department can then transfer the applications u/s 6(3) to the Income Tax Departments located in the States where the income tax returns are filed. Insofar as the Supreme Court is concerned, its administrative Ministry is the Ministry of Law & Justice. The Ministry of Law & Justice has, therefore, erred in returning the application transferred to it by the Addl. Registrar, SCI to the CPIO, SCI and should have instead transferred this u/s 6(3) (1) to the Deptt. of Revenue. The Registry of SCI thus cannot be faulted for having transferred the application that seeks information held by Govt. to its own administrative Ministry in Government, since the SCI is not a Department /

1

Underlined by us for emphasis

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Organization under the control of the Government and is not expected to hold the information on which Department of government deals with which subject. Besides, as clarified by Ld. Counsel for respondents Shri Devadatt Kamat, in the hearing, the RTI application of appellant Dr. Lal Bahadur dated 6.5.08 was received in the SCI on 10.5.08 and transferred on 15.5.08. Thus the transfer is within the time mandated by sec. 6(3) of the RTI Act. For the above reasons, the present appeal is without merit and is hereby dismissed.

Announced in the hearing. Notice of this decision be given free of cost to the parties, including the CPIO Ministry of Law, Justice & Company Affairs.

(Wajahat Habibullah)

Chief Information Commissioner

12.7.2010

Authenticated true copy. Additional copies of orders shall be supplied against application and payment of the charges, prescribed under the Act, to the CPIO of this Commission.

(Pankaj K.P. Shreyaskar)

Joint Registrar

12.7.2010

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