Sunday, May 9, 2010

Judiciary: a laggard in implementing RTI

It is not only the Chief Justice of India who wants his own office out of purview of RTI.  Even some of high courts are quite uncooperative about honouring RTI.

Following news story sums it all.  When it comes to implementation of right to information act (RTI), the courts are totally clueless and unhelpful to applicants.  The fact that this happened with a high court bench shows the high-handedness and aloofness which has become a characteristic of Indian judiciary.

M. Shanthi of Karur had filed an RTI application on February 25 seeking details of a civil miscellaneous appeal filed by an insurance company in 2001 against a judgment passed by a lower court earlier. Stating that the case was not listed for hearing for a long time, she sought to know whether it was still pending or had been disposed of.

N. Vijayakumar, Deputy Registrar (Administration) of the Bench and also Assistant Public Information Officer, replied to the application on March 3. Instead of giving a direct answer to the question, he asked the woman applicant to approach her advocate for obtaining the required information.

Not satisfied with the reply, Ms. Shanthi filed an appeal, under the RTI Act, before the Registrar (Administration) of the High Court Bench on March 13, 2010.

Subsequently, she received another letter from R. Susheela Devi, Deputy Registrar (RTI) dated March 31 asking her to come to the Bench during office hours at the earliest for verification of her residential address and signature.

The issue gains significance in view of the fact that there is no provision in the RTI Act which entitles a public information officer to ask an applicant to prove his/her identity. Section 6(2) of the Act categorically states a person seeking information need not give any personal details except those that were required for contacting him.

Section 6(2) of RTI Act, 2005 is given below:

(2) An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information or any other personal details except those that may be necessary for contacting him. 

The only main requirement in RTI Act is that applicant be a citizen of India.  Even an Indian living abroad can file an RTI through Indian embassy.  But by asking the applicant to come personally to office, the RTI official of high court has shown either their incompetence, or their complete disregard for law of the land.

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