Do the Court rules / procedures for disclosure prevail upon the RTI Act?
The Appellant sought some information regarding the public interest litigations disposed of by the High Court during the year 2009 along with copies of the rules under which such litigation could be filed. The PIO informed that he can obtain certified copies of relevant judicial records in the manner prescribed in the relevant rules and orders of the Delhi High Court. With regard to the rules for filing of public interest litigations, he informed him that there were no such rules but forwarded a set of guidelines. The First Appellate Authority endorsed the information already provided by the PIO.
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The Respondents submitted that the High Court did not maintain any separate category wise list of disposed of cases, therefore, it was not possible to identify such cases without scrutinising each disposed of case separately. Besides, they also submitted that the High Court had clear rules already in place before the enactment of the Right to Information (RTI) Act for disclosure of certified copies of judicial records and the citizens concerned could always get such certified copies by approaching the High Court under those rules. The Commission noted that the Appellant has not asked information in respect of any specific public interest litigation; he has asked for the certified copies of all records relating to all the disposed of public interest litigations during one year. If the High Court does not maintain any specific record of categories wise cases, it would be difficult for the PIO to provide information about those cases disposed are in the nature of public interest litigation. The Commission found merit in the argument that since the High Court has its own procedure for providing certified copies of judicial records, the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act cannot override those provisions. Section 22 The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (19 of 1923), and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act. of the RTI Act clearly provides that it will override the provisions of any other law for the time being in force only if there is any provision in any such existing law inconsistent with the provisions of the RTI Act. In other words, if an existing law forbids disclosure of information, the RTI Act will override that; if, however, there is already a provision for disclosure of information in any specified manner, such a provision cannot be said to be inconsistent with the provisions of the RTI Act. Therefore, the Commission held that if the Appellant wants to have certified copies of already disposed of public interest litigations, he must approach the High Court as per the rules and orders framed by that High Court and not under the RTI Act.
It has been argued that if more than one option is available to a citizen, it is his prerogative to choose the option he wishes to exercise. One cannot be forced to follow a particular choice. Therefore, it appears that the last word is yet to come on the issue.
Citation: Shri Mukesh Kumar Sarswat v. Delhi High Court, New Delhi in File No.CIC/WB/A/2010/000720SM