CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Appeal No.CIC/WB/A/2007/00307 dated 16.3.2007
Right to Information Act 2005 – Section 19
Appellant - Ms. Gita Dewan Verma
Respondent - High Court of Delhi
By an application of 15.12.06 assigned ID No. 114 Ms. Gita Dewan Verma of Vasant Kunj, New Delhi made an application to the PIO, Delhi High Court seeking the following information:
“1. Details of information required:
Apropos the Hon’ble Justice Usha Mehra (Retd) Yamuna – Removal of Encroachments Monitoring Committee:
2) Period for which information asked for: Since 1.1.2006 (start of Tenure of the Committee)”
To this she received a reply dated 24.1.07 as follows:
“The information sought by you relates to judicial cases bearing W.P.(C) No. 2112/2002 and W.P.(C) No. 689/2004 both titled Wazirpur Bartan Nirmata Sangh vs. Union of India. Both the matters are pending in this court. The access to records of a pending judicial case is governed by Chapter 5-A and 5-B of High Court Rules and Orders, Vol. V.
The information sought for by you cannot be supplied in view of the Rule 6 of Delhi High Court (Right to information) Rules, 2006 that reads as under:
6. Information which is to be furnished and access to records shall be subject to the restrictions and prohibitions contained in rules/regulations and destruction of records in force from time to time which may have been notified or implemented by this Court.”
Aggrieved by this response Ms. Gita Dewan Verma moved her first appeal before Appellate Authority, Delhi High Court on 7.2.07 pleading no response within 30 days, and aggrieved by rejection order dated 24.1.07. Upon this Sh. Kalam Singh, Appellate Authority in his order of 3.6.07 dismissed the appeal on the following grounds:
“I have heard the appellant. It is contended by the appellant that Public Information Officer has not given reference to any specific restrictions/ prohibition but merely to existence of Chapter 5A & 5B of High Court Rules & Orders Vol. V which do not exist on Delhi High Court website. She further stated that reasoning given by the Public Information Officer is contrary to Section 22 of Right to Information Act. Chapter 5A deals with inspection of records and chapter 5B deals with supply of certified copies of judicial records and it specifically prohibits strangers (not parties to case) to access the pending judicial record.”
Dissatisfied with the above decision of First Appellate Authority, Ms. Gita Dewan Verma moved her second appeal before us on 16.3.2007. The appeal was heard on 7.6.08. The following are present:
Ms. Gita Dewan Verma
Mr. Rajiv Bansal, Nominated Counsel
Mr. R. Gopalan, APIO
Mr. Sanjay Gupta, S.J.A.
Respondent Shri Rajiv Bansal, nominated Counsel for the Delhi High Court submitted that the Committee regarding which information had been sought was created by special order and was a separate entity not part of the High Court. The Committee is not authorized to issue orders. These are issued only by the High Court and, therefore, a part of judicial records; hence the response of PIO. The Committee, however, does give directions to various public authorities like DDA, MCD etc. He further stated that all orders of the High Court on the subject are available on the Internet.
Appellant Ms Verma on the other hand has submitted that when the above said Committee began to function in January 2006, the High Court had no PIO. She had, therefore, sought the information now sought from the High Court from various organizations, none of which was able to provide the same to her with the committee claiming that they were not a public authority under the RTI Act. She further contended that since she was not given the information sought at the time it was asked for, it might now be given to her free of cost u/s 7(6). Appellant Ms. Verma has also pointed out that although her application was submitted on 15.12.06 response is dated 24.1.07 thereby making it 10 days overdue in terms of time limit mandated u/s 7(1).
Ms. Gita Dewan Verma also raised points claiming procedural lapses in that CPIO and first Appellate Authority were not personally present despite issue of notice and that no comments had been received on the hearing notice issued by the Central Information Commission.
In response learned Counsel Shri Rajiv Bansal has indicated that he is authorised by the High Court to represent its cases before the Commission, as has been accepted by this Commission in earlier cases and that the delay in response arose only from the fact that the date when the application was submitted on 15.12.06 preceded the winter vacation that commenced on 21.12.06, as per the notification dated 8.12.06 issued by the Registrar General of the High Court of Delhi. In substantiation, he has submitted a statement listing dates in dealing with this case, as follows:
Application (Dy. No. 114/06) of Ms. Gita Dewan Verma received in RTI Cell Delhi High Court. The applicant sought information relating to action taken by Monitoring Committee constituted under the Chairmanship of Hon’ble Ms. Justice Usha Mehra (Retd) for removal of encroachment in Yamuna river area.
After the scrutiny of the application, the case was placed before the PIO for onward transmission to concerned Branch.
Copy of application forwarded to Dy. Registrar (Writs) with request to provide the requisite information sought in the application.
21.12.06 to 1.1.07
High Court of Delhi closed for Winter Vacation 2006.
Requisite information was received from the concerned branch in the RTI Cell.
The information was analyzed and draft letter was put up for approval of PIO.
Draft letter was approved by PIO.
Letter No. 1728/RTI/DHC/114 dated 24.1.07 issued to the applicant. The applicant was inform3ed that the information sought relates to judicial cases pending in this Court and can be accessed in terms of Chapter 5-A and 5-B of High Court Rules and Orders, Vol. V. The information sought was declined in terms of Rule
6 of Delhi High Court (Right to Information) Rules, 2006.
The appeal No. 13/2007 preferred by the applicant before the Appellate Authority Delhi High Court was dismissed holding no infirmity in the order of PIO.
Since the information sought concerns the removal of encroachment by Monitoring Committee, which as per submission of learned Counsel Shri Bansal is not a part of the High Court, this Committee would constitute a separate public authority. The information sought from the High Court by appellant should, therefore, have been transferred to the Committee u/s 6(3)(i) informing the applicant immediately about such transfer and as per proviso to sec. 6(3), such transfer should have taken place as soon as practicable and “in no case later than five days after the receipt of application”. There has, therefore, been a failure at the level of Registry of the High Court, which remained open during the period of five days from the date of receipt of the application to enable it to make such a transfer. However, such a transfer will now be made within 5 days of the date of issue of this Decision Notice.
This then opens the question of whether PIO, Jt Registrar High Court Delhi has rendered himself liable for penalty under the RTI Act. Although the transfer of the application is indeed mandated u/s 6 of the RTI Act, we cannot construe this to have been a denial of information because the PIO has in fact responded to the application with information on why the information sought cannot be provided by the High Court in his letter of 24.1.07. The information refused was not the information sought by appellant. So the delay in this case can only be construed as 10 days, which is covered by the winter vacation of 12 days. No penalty, therefore, will lie in this case.
However, Ms. Gita Dewan Verma has also sought compensation u/s 19(8)(b) since she has actually paid a fee of Rs. 500/- which was the application fee for RTI applications to the High Court at the time, even though no information was provided to her.
As discussed above, we have found that this application was deserving of transfer within 5 days of receipt, which the PIO High Court of Delhi has failed to do. We have also found that the information refused was not the information sought by appellant Ms. Gita Dewan Verma. In fact, the information sought by the appellant was related to and held by the Removal of Encroachments Monitoring Committee and the Registry of the High Court was only expected to transfer the same to the said Committee under Section 6(3)(i) of the RTI Act. They have on the other hand unnecessarily processed the matter and gave a reply which was not even asked for. The acceptance of the fee was, therefore, unnecessary and the fee paid by her to the High Court was infructuous. The appellant Ms. Gita Dewan Verma has thus suffered a financial loss of Rs.500/- which will, therefore, be paid back to her as compensation within fifteen days of the receipt of this Decision by the Registrar, Delhi High Court.
The appeal is disposed of accordingly. Reserved in the hearing, this Decision is announced on the 9th day of May 2008. Notice of this decision be given free of cost to the parties.
Chief Information Commissioner
Authenticated true copy. Additional copies of orders shall be supplied against application and payment of the charges, prescribed under the Act, to the CPIO of this Commission.