The right to information (RTI) law can be used to sue the government for inadequate service if it can be proved in a consumer court that the delay in providing information caused loss.
This was the view of three different consumer courts who awarded compensation to right to information users for delay saying that the applicants were consumers of the government since they paid a fee and furnishing information within 30 days was, therefore, a service.
A district consumer forum in Tamil Nadu awarded Rs. 5,000 compensation to N Arasakumaram, who had filed an right to information application relating to answers in a test for recruiting teachers, a delayed response to which cost him a government job.
In second case, a Chennai consumer forum held the public information officer of Tamil Nadu State Information Commission liable for “deficiency of service” for failing to provide information. He was asked to pay a compensation of Rs. 5,000 to right to information applicant B Ramesh.
The third case is from Pune consumer forum which asked the Maharashtra Directorate of Technical Education to pay compensation of Rs. 10,000 to right to information applicant KR Kakade for delay in providing information. Kakade had sought information regarding his employment with the institute but failed to get any response.
Such consumer court orders may open a Pandora’s box as any unsatisfied RTI applicant can now file petitions against public information officers and seek compensation.