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RTI Act | Information commission can’t turn blinder eye to culpable delay in furnishing in info by PIO : Karnataka High Court.

This particular decision is held by the High Court Of Karnataka through the single bench of Justice Krishna S Dixit  in the case of SIJO SEBASTAIN v. KARNATAKA INFORMATION COMMISSION & Others

Facts 

 Petitioner’s RTI case having been favoured, the answering respondent Sri Shankar who happen to be the Public Information Officer-cum-the Manager attached to Block Education office, K.R.Puram, Bengaluru was directed to furnish the information as sought for.  The said information came to be furnished with a delay of about two years. Petitioner’s statutory appeal number 10725/APL/2020 came to be disposed off by the 1st respondent- Commission vide order dated 25.01.2022 on the ground that after notice dated 10.11.2021 was effected on the 2nd respondent, he has  furnished to the petitioner on 03.12.2021 by a registered post the information/documents as was directed. 

The essential grievance of the petitioner is that the subject appeal could not have been so casually closed by order of the kind, closing eyes to the enormous delay brooked by the 2nd respondent in furnishing the information/documents and that the 1st respondent-Commission being a statutory quasi judicial body cannot act like a maharaja or moghul, its functions being of public lawcharacter. The petitioner passionately submits that fine ought to have been levied on the 2nd respondent erring official, to say the least.

Orders and judgements 

Respondent-Commission being a statutory quasi judicial body cannot act like a maharaja or moghul, its functions being of public law character,” it was said.

The Court noted that Section 20 of the RTI Act prescribes a penalty of Rs.250 for delay of each day brooked in furnishing the information; sub-section (1) prescribes the maximum penalty amount of Rs.25,000.

Accordingly, it directed the PIO to pay a penalty of Rs 25,000 to the Petitioner, along with Rs. 10,000 cost.

“Access to information is also a key tool in combating corruption and wrongdoing. Investigative journalists and watchdog civil society organizations can use the right to access information to expose wrongdoing and help root it out. These laws reflect the fundamental premise that government and public officials are supposed to serve the people. There are, however, a number of more practical ideas underlying the widespread recognition of the right to information,” 

“The right of access to information is recognized even under the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as an element of freedom of expression. It is understood in the said instrument as the right to seek and receive information.”

The 1st Proviso to sub-section (1) of Sec. 20 enacts audi alteram partem and therefore before levying the penalty the erring person needs to be heard, is true. The 2nd Proviso enacts a negative burden and places it on the shoulders of the erring official to prove that he acted reasonably & diligently in furnishing the information in time or not furnishing. This second proviso itself shows the significance of the right to information as legislated by the Parliament. That being the position, there was absolutely no reason for closing the appeal of the petitioner without levying penalty on the 2nd respondent, who has chosen to remain unrepresented despite service of notice.”

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Judgement reviewed by- Mohammed Shoaib

Click here to view the judgement

 

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