GIC Raps Gujarat Court for Penalising and Denying Information to RTI Applicant
The District court in Gujarat’s Junagadh had penalised a man after terming his application a ‘misuse’ of RTI act and 'a colossal waste of time'.
RTI applicant Bhagnesh Jani had sought information from the Junagadh District Court in March 2016.
Gujarat: In a bizarre move, instead of giving information sought under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the District Court in Gujarat’s Junagadh penalised a man after terming his application a ‘misuse’ of RTI act and 'a colossal waste of time'.
Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) later came to the applicant's rescue and set aside the district court order.
Bhagnesh Jani, a retired court clerk from Junagadh town in Gujarat, had sought information related to employees working in Junagadh District Court in March 2016. But the Public Information Officer denied the information, saying it was exempted under the RTI Act, 2005. Jani made an appeal to additional district and sessions judge and argued that the information is available on record and not exempted under the RTI Act.
But the judge observed that Jani had sought information ‘as if he is an investigation officer and the court is culprit’. “The information sought by applicant should be related to them and their issues and not the third party. The information like transfer, promotions etc should not be made available to third party because it’s a colossal waste of time of court. Prima facie, the intent of the RTI applicant should be pure and information sought by him should be related to him only,” the court said.
During a hearing in May 2016, the court termed Jani’s application as ‘misuse’ of RTI Act, refused to provide information and imposed a penalty of Rs 1,000 on him. It also ruled that “if the applicant failed to pay the amount, the same should be deducted from his pension”.
Aggrieved by the decision, Bhagnesh Jani filed an appeal in GIC. “I have gone through tremendous mental pressure after I filed an RTI plea in the court. I have not broken any laws in seeking the information but the court behaved in a vindictive manner and penalised me,” Jani told News 18.
GIC found that the attitude of the respondents (court judges) in was neither reasonable nor responsive. It said the district court was wrong in asking the RTI applicant to pay copy fee of Rs 74 and the penalty imposed on him cannot be upheld. “This action is totally against the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005,” GIC said.
In its July 30, 2018 order, the GIC observed that there is no provision to impose penalty on an applicant under the RTI Act, 2005. It also directed the court to “refund the copy fee of Rs 74 and penalty amount of Rs 1,000” to Jani “within 15 days of this order and inform the commission”.
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