In a surprise move, an information commissioner has overturned the decision of India’s first Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, who had accepted the Supreme Court argument that a Right to Information (RTI) application can be rejected if it has not been filed under the rules of the top court.
Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, in a detailed order, has concluded that he “respectfully disagrees with the decision of the then Chief Information Commissioner that the Supreme Court may choose to deny information under the RTI Act and ask an applicant to apply under the rules of the top court.”
Gandhi, in his order, has requested the Supreme Court to become a role model in the implementation of the RTI Act.
"The Supreme Court should inspire all public authorities to follow its lead in transparency. This would certainly enable better delivery of citizens’ fundamental right to information,” he said in the order.
Gurgaon resident RS Misra had last year sought under the RTI certain documents, including official letters, which were a part of the Supreme Court record. He was informed by the Supreme Court that he would be allowed to inspect some of the documents sought by him, in case a proper application under the 1966 rules of the top court was made to its information officer.
Not convinced with the reply, Misra filed an appeal through his lawyer Rachna Gupta in the Supreme Court, but it was dismissed.
He then approached the Central Information Commission (CIC) with his grouse, where the lawyer representing the Supreme Court cited two orders passed by Habibullah, in which the supremacy of the rules of the top court had been accepted over the RTI Act.
Gandhi, however, deciding the appeal in favour of Misra, ruled: “It is the citizens' prerogative to decide under which mechanism i.e. under which method prescribed by the public authority or the RTI Act, they would like to obtain the information.”