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The application under Section 20(1) should not result in a penalty being imposed if the explanation for the delayed information is appropriate and the delay was caused by legitimate circumstances: Uttarakhand High Court

The application under Section 20(1) should not result in a penalty being imposed if the explanation for the delayed information is appropriate and the delay was caused by legitimate circumstances is upheld by the Uttarakhand High Court in the case of Suman Agarwal v. State Information Commissioner through Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari.

FACTS OF THE CASE

Respondent submitted the application under Section 6 (1) of the Right to Information Act to the District Education Officer, who forwarded it to the petitioner to handle as necessary. The petitioner requested information from the principal of the Delhi Public School in Ranipur, but the principal initially refused to provide it on the grounds that it is not required to do so.

However, after the petitioner persuaded the principal, the requested information was provided to the petitioner, who then provided it to the respondent. The information was indeed given to respondent but a penalty was imposed because there was a slight delay in giving the requested information.

JUDGEMENT

The Uttarakhand State Information Commissioner case, decided in 2014, was cited by the court in support of its ruling where it was said that a straightforward interpretation of Section 20(1) of the Act would indicate that a fine may be assessed for delayed information if the delay was brought on by an unjustified circumstance.

In this instance, the petitioner’s explanation to the Chief Information Commissioner was that the applicant’s file was initially untraceable within the department but was later rebuilt and filled with information.

The Court observed that the application under Section 20(1) should not result in a penalty being imposed if the explanation for the delayed information is appropriate and the delay was caused by legitimate circumstances.  The Court partially granted the petition and decided to overturn the punishment because it looked to be unfair and unnecessary.

Accordingly, an appeal that was filed contesting a State Information Commissioner order that fined the petitioner  for failing to give respondent timely information was partially upheld.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NISHTHA GARHWAL

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