Bombay High Court has given a notice to the state govt to file a reply on issues within six weeks, says Gajanan Khergamker
The Bombay High Court has told the State government to file a reply within six weeks to a PIL challenging the limitation of one subject per application and limitation of 150 words for information under the Right to Information Act. Advocate Shivaji Kshirsagar’s plea challenging the January 16th notification to amend the Maharashtra Right to Information Rules 2005 as heard by a division bench of Justices D D Sinha and V K Tahilramani.
According to the petitioner, “This Act was introduced to provide for setting out the practical regime of Right to Information for citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. The democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed.”
Section 27 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 delegated powers to the States to make rules to carry out the provisions of the said Act. “Accordingly the state government has passed The Maharashtra Right to Information Rules, 2005 and published Notification dated 16th January 2012 named The Maharashtra Right to Information (Amendment) Rules 2012 to amend the Maharashtra Right to Information Rules, 2005 whereby Rule 3A is inserted which reads as under- Request relates only to single subject matter:- A request in writing for information under section 6 of the Act shall relate to one subject matter and it shall not ordinarily exceed one hundred and fifty words. If an applicant wishes to seek information on more than one subject matter he shall make separate applications:
Provided that, in case the request made relates to more than one subject matter, the Public Information Officer may respond to the request relating to the first subject matter only and may advice the applicant to make a separate application for each of the other subject matters.”
Mr Kshirsagar, voicing the views of an aggrieved RTI activist lot, feels, “the impugned Notification is against the objectives of the Right to Information Act, 2005 which is the principal Act. It is against the principles of natural justice and violates the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under the Constitution. The petitioner states that the impugned Notification is made only to deprive the citizens from seeking information within time as well as in reasonable costs.”
“The word one subject matter used in the amended Rule 3A is no where defined. Hence it is vague. The impugned Notification is not just, fair and reasonable. It is inconsistence with the parent Act. Therefore it is liable to be quashed.”
The petitioner challenged the notification on the grounds that
a) The whole exercise of Respondent issuing the impugned Notification is unconstitutional and against law. Hence the Notification be declared unconstitutional and set aside.
b) It is respectful submission of the Petitioner that Respondent ought not to have issued the impugned Notification which is against the objectives of the Right to Information Act, 2005. Hence it may be set aside.
c) The petitioner states that the Amendment sought by virtue of impugned Notification will cause harassment to the citizens willing to seek information. The proviso to Amended Section 3A gives discretionary powers to Public Information Officers.
This discretion will be used against the applicants to deprive them from seeking information. It provides weapons to the Public Information Officer to reject the applications. Hence the impugned Notification may kindly be set aside.
d) The petitioner states that the impugned Notification is against the freedom of expression as it restricts the contents of the application to 150 words and one subject only. Moreover the Notification has put unreasonable restrictions on the applicants and thereby violates Article 21 of the Constitution.
The petitioner states that, “every law should be Just Fair and Reasonable as declared by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi’s Case. The impugned Notification does not satisfy the reasonability test. Hence may be set aside.”
Medical Council of India rapped for non-disclosure
In a path-breaking order dated May 9th 2012, Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi ordered the Public Information Officer of Medical Council of India to disclose all correspondence/emails Medical Council of India had between Max Hospital & its doctors, Ethics Committee & its members, Board of Governors of MCI and any other organizations / individuals after March 8th 2011, including file noting. He asked the MCI to compensate the appellant Rs 3,000 as per the provisions of Section 19(8)(b) of the RTI Act for the loss and detriment suffered by him in pursing the appeal and getting the information late.
The Appellant S P Mancharida points out that this is a case of medical negligence which resulted in his daughter’s death in May 2009. The aggrieved father has been pursuing the matter in the MCI since last two years. The Ethics Committee of MCI has reportedly found four doctors guilty but has been “delaying awarding any punishment since past 14 months.”
“The complete collapse of mechanisms to punish people who have been found guilty is extremely damaging for society and denies victims a sense of justice being done,” noted the Information Commissioner in his order. “The Commission realizes that the Appellant has been harassed by not being provided information on the issue of correspondence and mails without any reason. Harassment of a common man by public authorities is socially abhorring and legally impermissible. It may harm him personally but the injury to society is far more grievous. Nothing is more damaging than the feeling of helplessness. An ordinary citizen instead of complaining and fighting succumbs to the pressure of undesirable functioning in offices instead of standing against it. Therefore the award of compensation for harassment by public authorities not only compensates the individual, satisfies him personally but helps in curing social evil,” the CIC said.
According to the Ethics Committee meeting held on March 8th 2011, the quantum of punishment was to be decided in the next meeting. The respondents state that the Ethics Committee meets every month. Thus over 12 or 13 meetings have been held and the matter of punishment is claimed to have been still under consideration.
Refusal of any information in RTI has to be based under Section 8(1) of the RTI Act. The PIO is directed to provide information on query-5 as per available records to the Appellant since no ground for denial has been established.
“Harassment of a common man by public authorities is socially abhorring and legally impermissible. It may harm him personally but the injury to society is far more grievous. Crime and corruption thrive and prosper in the society due to lack of public resistance. Nothing is more damaging than the feeling of helplessness.
An ordinary citizen instead of complaining and fighting succumbs to the pressure of undesirable functioning in offices instead of standing against it. Therefore the award of compensation for harassment by public authorities not only compensates the individual, satisfies him personally but helps in curing social evil. It may result in improving the work culture and help in changing the outlook.”
The order states, it is necessary that information about names of doctors who are found guilty by the Ethics Committee of Medical Negligence/Misconduct is displayed on the website of the Medical Council of India and when the punishment is decided, the quantum of punishment should also be displayed.
The PIO will ensure that the names of doctors who have been found guilty by the Ethics Committee since January 2011 are displayed on the website of the MCI and the quantum of punishment is also displayed whenever it is decided.
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