Court Records Covered by RTI, Indian CIC Decides

18 May 2011

The Indian Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled  that the Right to Information Act takes precedence over the internal rules of the Supreme Court.

The court rules required a showing of “good cause.”

The First Appellate Authority (FFA) held that any information on judicial records could be accessed only under the Supreme Court rules.  In deciding that judicial records are covered by the RTI, CIC Shailesh Gandhi overturned a previous CIC decision.

The case concerned a request by an appellant about the status of letters he sent in connection with a Special Leave Petition he filed.

Gandhi held that the Supreme Court could not cite internal rules to deny information sought under the RTI Act. He wrote:

“The right to information is a fundamental right of the citizen of India. This has been clearly recognised by the Supreme Court in several decisions and subsequently codified by Parliament in 2005. The RTI Act was enacted with the spirit of ensuring transparency…Section 3 of the RTI Act lays down that subject to the provisions of the RTI Act, all citizens shall have the right to information… Further Section 22 of the RTI Act expressly provides that the provisions of the RTI Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923, and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than the RTI Act. In other words, where there is any inconsistency in a law as regards furnishing of information, such law shall be superseded by the RTI Act. Insertion of a non-obstante clause in Section 22 of the RTI Act was a conscious choice of Parliament to safeguard the citizens’ fundamental right to information… If the PIO has received a request for information under the RTI Act, the information shall be provided to the applicant as per the provisions of the RTI Act and any denial of the same must be in accordance with Sections 8 and 9 of the RTI Act only…”

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