The information watchdog the Central Information Commission cannot leave the disposal of complaint filed by an RTI applicant on the public authority as it is obligatory for the panel to decide on merit of the plea, Delhi High Court has said.
Hearing a complaint filed by an activist, Justice V K Jain the court said it was obligatory for the commission to decide a complaint on its merit instead of simply directing the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) to provide information which the complainant had sought.
Jain had alleged that some information commissioners in the CIC were deciding complaints under section 18 of the RTI in a summary fashion and sending it back to CPIOs concerned, directing them to disclose information.
Under the RTI, there are two separate sections -- 18 for filing of complaint in case no information or incomplete information has been provided in 30 days mandatory period and 19 under which second appeal can be filed for disclosure of information.
In section 18, CIC can initiate penalty proceedings, carry on inquiry but cannot order disclosure of information, according to Supreme Court directives which said disclosure of information can only be ordered through second appeal route under section 19.
In one such complaint filed by R K Jain, the CIC adapted the same procedure and issued notice to CPIO of the public authority directing to disclose information. The activist approached High Court saying he only wanted penalty proceeding against the CPIO for non disclosure of the information as per the directions of the Supreme Court.
Hearing the matter, Justice Jain said: "Section 18 of the Act, to the extent it is relevant, provides that it shall be the duty of the commission to receive and enquire into a complaint from any person who has been refused access to any information requested under the Act or who has not been given a response to a request for information or access to information within the time limits specified under the Act."
“It is, therefore, obligatory for the Commission to decide such a complaint on merit instead of simply directing the CPIO to provide information which the complainant had sought," Justice Jain held.