Over a dozen present and former information commissioners from Madhya Pradesh and other states have written to the Chief Justice of India seeking intervention from the apex court over various high courts stalling RTI orders including the imposition of penalties on erring officers under the RTI Act.
These include former Centre Information Commissioners Shailesh Gandhi, Satyananda Mishra, Yashovardhan Azad, MM Ansari, MP State Information Commissioners Rahul Singh and G Krishnamurthy among others.
The letter on the writ jurisdiction of HCs was sent to the CJI office on September 9 and the latter confirmed the receipt of the petition on September 13.
The missive said it aims at drawing the apex court’s attention to a practice of granting stays to orders by the information commissions.
According to Section 23 of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, “No court shall entertain any suit, application or other proceedings in respect of any order made under this act and no such order shall be called in question otherwise than by way of an appeal under this act.”
The group pointed out that, “Thus Parliament clearly intended that the final appeal will lie with the Information commissions.”
The letter added that many high courts stay orders of Information Commissioners where no reasons are given either in the petition or in the orders describing how the challenge would fall under the writ jurisdiction of the Court. These cover orders ordering disclosure of information as well as imposition of penalty.
Highlighting another point, the letter said, Article 226 (3) of the constitution lays down that where a stay has been obtained without the participation of the respondents, the high court shall dispose of the application within two weeks from the date on which the petition for vacation of the stay is made. If this is not done, the stay stands vacated. This is not being implemented across the nation.
“We request you to please consider treating this as a suo moto PIL and issuing appropriate directions to make RTI effective in line with the Constitution and the law passed by Parliament. You may please consider directing courts to give reasons how the challenge falls in the writ jurisdiction of the high courts. At the very least orders of imposition of penalty should not be stayed as no irrevocable harm can come to the penalised official,” read the letter accessed by News18.com.
The group of experts also pleaded that they (HCs) should also give effect to Article 226 (3) when dealing with petitions asking for a stay order against Information Commission’s decisions.
The group even told News18.com that several other present and former info commissioners approached them for being part of the petition even after the letter was forwarded to the CJI office.
“Easily available High Court stay issue needs the attention of the CJI as frequent, random and routine stay of even some of the speaking orders of the information commissions is against the very spirit of RTI Act. It’s being done in a very systematic way first the authority would violate the RTI act then they will get a stay from High Court at the drop of a hat against any action initiated by the Information Commissions. The whole purpose of RTI Act making the authorities accountable in a time-bound manner to public become infructuous,” MP State Information Commissioner Rahul Singh said.