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Difficulty in collating the information is not a ground under RTI Act for refusing information:Delhi High court

CASE TITTLE: GOVT OF NCT OF DELHI AND ANR. V  MR PRABHJOT SINGH DHILLON

CASE NO: W.P.(C) 6034/2024 & CM APPL. 25029/2024

ORDER ON: 02nd MAY, 2024

QUORUM:  JUSTICE SUBRAMONIUM PRASAD

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The present petition challenges the Order dated 06.11.2023, passed by the Central Information Commission (“the CIC”).

The facts, in brief, leading to the present Writ Petition is that, the Respondent herein filed an RTI application seeing information as to in how many cases the Aided School Branch, Department of Education has taken action against the teachers for taking private tuitions in the State of Delhi. Later the Department of Education transferred the application to the concerned Public Information Officers (PIOs) of all districts.As the information was not been given to him within the stipulated time, the Respondent filed a first appeal before the Appellate Authority, but was disposed of, A second appeal was filed by the Respondent which was disposed of , with a direction to the PIOs to seek clarification from the Respondent about the information and the specific time period for which the information is sought, later On 09.06.2023, the Respondent wrote a letter to the PIO (ASB) stating that the Respondent requires 10 years information but, the Respondent sought information only for five years, Since no action was taken, proceedings under Section 18 read with Section 20 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 was initiated by the Respondent. On 06.11.2023, the CIC has passed the impugned Order directing the PIO of the Aided School Branch to provide the relevant information to the Respondent within 60 days from the date of the said Order. Aggrieved by the said Order, the Petitioner has approached this Court.

LEGAL PROVISIONS:

Section 18 of the Right to Information Act, 2005: talks about the duty of the Central Information Commission or State Information Commission, as the case may be, to receive and inquire into a complaint from any person,.

Sec 20 of the right to Information Act,2005: talks about penalties

CONTENTIONS OF THE PETITIONERS:

 The Petitioner through their legal counsel submitted that the Department of Education has no control over unaided Schools and, therefore, it cannot provide for the information regarding action taken by the unaided Schools against their teachers for taking private tuitions. The counsel  further submitted  that there is no direction from the Vigilance Department of the Department of Education to maintain a list of cases of misconduct.the counsel  also placed reliance on a Circular dated 01.11.2017 by which an application made under the RTI Act cannot be sent to private unaided schools as they are not public authorities amenable to the RTI Act. The counsel further states that since private schools are not under the RTI Act, the Respondent cannot seek for any information regarding unaided private schools.

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT:

The respondent through their learned Counsel submitted that under the Delhi School Education Rules, 1973, if a private school intends to take major penalty against a teacher then it must be authorization from the Department of Education and, therefore, the counsel contended that it cannot be said that the Department of Education does not have the requisite information.

COURTS ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT:

The court on hearing both the parties, opined that A Public Authority cannot take a stand that, the information is not available in one place and it will take a long time to collate the same, therefore, the information cannot be provided under the RTI Act.the court further observed the Rules of the Delhi School Education Rules, 1973, which stipulates that if a School intends to take a major penalty against a teacher then the approval of the Director of Education is necessary and without such approval any action of major penalty cannot be imposed on the teacher. Therefore, the court opined that, information related to teachers of private unaided schools can be collated from the records of major punishment imposed by such schools. Therefore, the court considered that, the Petitioner must have the information regarding the penalty taken against a teacher for taking private tuition in both Government and private schools. hence, the court opined that, Efforts have to be made by the Department to collate the information and then give it to the Respondent. The court further opined that the object of the RTI Act is to ensure transparency in the functioning of the Departments and this cannot stop by the State Government on the ground that voluminous information is being sought and, therefore, the information cannot be provided. The Government also cannot deny information on the grounds that it will take time to collate the information.

 From all of the above analysis and considerations , the Court dismissed the present Writ Petition with a direction to the Petitioner to provide the information sought by the Respondent in respect of both Government and aided schools and in respect of private schools, the Petitioner is directed to provide information of all such cases where major penalty has been imposed on the teacher for taking private tuitions.

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