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No RTI can be filed to request “A” diaries of civil and criminal proceedings: Kerala High Court

No RTI can be filed to request “A” diaries of civil and criminal proceedings is upheld by the Kerala High Court in the case of M.P. Chothy v. Registrar General, High Court of Kerala (WP(C) No. 23224 of 2022) through Justice Murali Purushothaman.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The petitioner, a retired Class I officer who is currently a practising attorney, had submitted a request for copies of “A” diary of civil and criminal postings of the cases for the time period of 01-12-2021 to 14-04-2022 under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

The Public Information Officer (PIO) rejected the application, claiming that the information could be accessed by submitting a copy application and that it was also publicly available on the District Court’s kiosk, notice board, and website.

The High Court, in accordance with Rule 12 of the Right to Information (Subordinate Courts and Tribunals) Rules, 2006, has instructed all Subordinate Courts in the State that no information relating to any Judicial Proceedings shall be disclosed under the said Act, and this is the reason the petitioner’s first appeal under Section 19(2) of the RTI Act was dismissed.

As a result, the petitioner filed the current petition to challenge both the PIO’s order and the decision to dismiss the initial appeal. In addition, the petitioner had sought to invalidate Rule 12 of the Rules, 2006, arguing that the aforementioned rule violated his fundamental rights, which are protected by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and the RTI Act, respectively.

JUDGMENT

The Court said that relevantly, “A” diary is a record of the quantity and content of the legal work of each case considered on a given day, and it is signed by the presiding officer.

Citing Chief Information Commissioner v. High Court of Gujarat, (2020), the Court made the observation that the RTI Act’s provisions should not be used when information can be obtained through the mechanism set forth in the High Court’s rules. Instead, the said mechanism should be preserved and followed. The Court stated that the RTI Act’s provisions should not be used because the petitioner may get copies of “A’ diary of civil and criminal postings of the cases” by submitting requests in accordance with the Rules of Practice.

Before the RTI Act was passed, the High Court drafted the Criminal Rules of Practice for Kerala from 1982 and the Civil Rules of Practice for Kerala from 1971. Both of these rules provide for the distribution of copies of any proceedings or documents submitted to or in the possession of the court. After the RTI Act was passed, the High Court promulgated the Rules, 2006, incorporating provisions for disclosing information not covered by the Criminal Rules of Practice and the Civil Rules of Practice. This was done in accordance with the authority granted under sub-section (1) of Section 28 of the RTI Act read with Article 235 of the Constitution.

The High Court, under Rule 12 of the Rules, 2006, has provided that no application for information or a document relating to any judicial proceedings held by and under the control of the public authority shall be entertained by the PIO. The Court noted that since the Criminal Rules of Practice and the Civil Rules of Practice provide provisions for the grant of copies of any proceedings or documents filed or in the custody of the Court. The Court concluded that the Rules, 2006, which set forth the method of information disclosure, are compliant with the RTI Act’s stipulations.

The Court further noted that there was no rejection or refusal of information and that none of the petitioner’s fundamental rights had been violated because the petitioner had been informed that copies of “A’ diary of civil and criminal postings of the cases” could be accessed by filing copy requests. Accordingly, the writ petition was consequently denied.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NISHTHA GARHWAL

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