India’s CIC Clashes With Justice Over Use of RTI

27 April 2012

India’s Chief Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has written to the Chief Justice of India, S.H. Kapadia, to object to his recent comments critical of the right to information law.

The chief justice was quoted as saying the law was “good” but was being misused to ask irrelevant and intrusive questions.

 In his reply, Gandhi said: “It is possible to show cases where the RTI may have been used in a trivial manner. Similarly, it would be possible to show that various progressive laws — such as the Dowry Act, the Atrocities Act, etc. — may have been used in a trivial manner or to harass innocent people. But all of us recognise the beneficial results of these, and do not talk of constricting them.”

Gandhi’s letter also said, “I would like to submit to you that transparency in governance is a cherished goal and all functionaries and instrumentalities of the Government should be striving for greater transparency and accountability. Your comments — correctly reported — may dampen the RTI journey of India.”

Gandhi said the RTI offered a potential of “making our nation a true democracy which recognises the sovereignty of the Indian citizen.” His letter said, “Citizen’s trust in the government and its functionaries is not too high, resulting in a trust deficit. The RTI is making citizens effective monitors of the government and helping to unravel corruption.”

The CIC said the judge’s comments could have a significant negative impact on the RTI and aid its opponents. For more n his reaction, see a report in Money Life.

According to media reports, including on The Times of India, Kapadia was quoted as saying, “In RTI matters, since I took over as CJI, I have given answers to all questions except very few things. But the kind of questions and their number is also exceeding limit.”

The Times reported:

He gave samples of the irrelevant questions that were being put to the Judges taking away their precious time which could have been utilized in studying petitions and case materials. “Why did you attend Nani Palkhivala Lecture? What time did you leave? Did you eat lunch or had tea? Which lawyer invited you for the function? We are working hard but we are not being able to concentrate many a times because these kinds of questions,” the CJI said.

“Are these questions relevant for press? It is all going beyond all limits. The RTI Act is a good law but there has to a limit to it,” he added.

 

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