CIC Directs CPIO To Provide Desired Information to Appellant Leaving Out Personal Details Submitted by Third Party 

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Image Source: Jagran Josh

Facts 

The services which were made by the appellant were not present despite being given the date previously. It was further noted that through an email he was requested to provide his mobile for the conduct of audio hearing but despite the acknowledgment, he failed in doing so. So, under these circumstances, the cases were listed for the hearing. The CPIO submitted that appropriate replies were given to the appellant on 16.2.2019.

Arguments 

Questions also came up because of the incomplete information of the unsuccessful tenders. Section 22 of the act was relied on by the learned Single Judge though giving overriding effect to the provisions of the act still saves the instruments “having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act”. The Court in Vijay Prakash v. Union of India AIR 2010 Delhi 7 held that though Section 22 the Act overrides other laws, the opening non-obstante clause in Section 8 confers primacy to the exemptions enacted under Section 8(1). Thus, once the information is found to be exempt under Section 8(1), reliance on Section 22 is misconceived. Whether the information is of such nature as defined in Section 8(1)(d) of the Act can be adjudicated only by recourse to Section 11 of the Act. Though, the Non- Disclosure Agreement extended the obligation of confidentiality beyond the date of opening of the tenders also but only for a period of two years from the date of disclosure or to the completion of business purpose whichever is later. The business purpose stands abandoned with the scrapping of the tenders. More than two years have elapsed from the date when the information was submitted. 

Court’s Observation 

From the relevant case order, it was noted that the reply of the CPIO dated 16.2.2019 was improper. Even during the hearing, it was inquired from the CPIO as to whether the tender processes about which the information was sought have been completed or not, to which she submitted that the tender process was complete. The Commission wasn’t convinced with the submissions and the CPIO claims were not justified. In the cited case, the Jharkhand High Court had categorically stated that the contract entered into by the public authority with a private person cannot be treated as confidential after the tendering process is over & especially after the conclusion of the contract. It was also categorically mentioned that people have the right to know the basis on which the decision was taken. It was further noted that the information on point no. 1 is not covered under any of the exemption clauses envisaged under the RTI Act. Therefore, this information should be provided to the Appellant.

Court’s Decision 

The 11th annual report of the State Information Commissionerate (SIC) drew attention to the possible “misuse” of the RTI Act by certain users. While the Public Information Officers (PIOs) And Appellate Authorities (AAs) have been speaking about the issue, this perhaps would be the first annual report when the Commissionerate was admitted to such a “misuse”. The various benches of the SIC have come across in cases of a single person filing multiple appeals. Similarly, there have been cases of misuse of the financial leeway given to below-the poverty line applicants. Misuse of the RTI Act has been noticed in some instances and social organizations and activists must take cognition of the same and devise measures to stop it. 


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