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The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that in a conflict between the Right to Information Act and the internal rules of a Public Authority, the RTI Act must prevail. It would prevail even if the internal rules pertain to the Supreme Court.

CIC Shailesh Gandhi passed this order in a case, in which information on certain judicial records was sought from the Supreme Court under the RTI Act. The First Appellate Authority (FFA) in the court held that any information on judicial records could be accessed only under Order XII of the Supreme Court rules.

The judicial records pertained to letters written to judges by R.S. Misra, appellant in the case. Mr. Misra, who wrote the letters in connection with a Special Leave Petition filed by him, wanted to know their status and filed an application under the RTI Act.

Mr. Gandhi held that the Supreme Court could not cite internal rules to deny information if it had been sought under the RTI Act. Further that information could be denied only if the information sought was prohibited under the RTI Act itself.

“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 In other words, where there is any inconsistency in a law as regards furnishing of information, such law shall be superseded by the RTI Act.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..”

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2013124.ece

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The selection procedure of the chairman of telecom regulator TRAI including all the details of selection committee meeting should be made public, the Central Information Commission has held.

The transparency panel rejected the plea of the Cabinet secretariat that information was personal in nature and cannot be given under section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act which prohibits disclosure of such details.

“We fail to understand how the desired information could be classified as personal information at all…The information sought in these cases is far from personal. “Selection and appointment to certain posts in the government are part of the administrative decision-making process and must be placed in the public domain as soon as possible in order to ensure transparency,” chief information commissioner Satyananda Mishra said.

Mishra directed the Secretariat to allow the RTI applicant the inspection of entire file related to the selection of the chairman, TRAI. The case relates to an RTI application filed by one Ashok Golas, one of the candidate considered for the selection in the telecom commission, who sought to know from Cabinet secretariat information regarding selection of the member (technology) of telcom commission and chairman, TRAI including the file notes of selection committee meeting, annual confidential reports of the candidates, number of candidates considered for the post among others.

The Cabinet secretariat refused to disclose the information citing personal information clause of the transparency law and also said that information could be used by the applicant to further his interests before any court of law against the government. The secretariat citing a CIC order said information which could be used by any information seeker in support of his case before any court of law should not be disclosed as it could affect the interests of the government which as a third party had also the rights to safe-guard its interests.

This argument of the Cabinet secretariat was also not accepted by the chief information commissioner, who said the case relied by it has no relevance in the present matter and “both the cases are quite different.” Mishra ordered the Cabinet secretariat to disclose date of special committee of secretaries’ meeting to select member (services) and member (technology) of telecom commission including the name and designation of all the officials who took part in the process. He also directed that list of all the officers who were considered for the posts should be made public. Mishra also ordered to make public agenda of the selection committee meeting, guidelines followed by it and file-notings of recommendations made by it to appointments committee but said annual confidential reports of candidates can be withheld.

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