Copy of CAT order was refused asking the appellant to apply as per procedure provided under Chapter XVIII of C.A.T. Rules of Practice, 1993 - CIC: Provide the documents free of cost as the existence of two avenues is not mutually exclusive
The Appellant filed an RTI application dated 18.11.2022 seeking the following information:
“The Hon. C.P.I.O. of Central Administrative Tribunal, Delhi is, hereby, requested to please provide and issue this applicant, subject to its ready availability and access, a true, legible, clear photocopy, duly attested by a gazetted Officer if possible, of the final Order issued by the D.B. of C.A.T. Delhi in O.A.No.2805/2013 dated the 13th May, 2013 in a Case Stenographer Vs. Secretary (Revenue) and Second Respondent through the Registrar Appellate Authority for Forfeited Properties, Govt. of India, New Delhi. (Note: - For exaction of information sought by this applicant, it is informed to this authority that In this Case, the hon. C.A.T. Delhi had observed that SUBLATO FUNDAMENTO CADIT OPUS means in a Case a foundation is removed the superstructure falls. And this hon. C.A.T. has stated that it is a Settled Legal Preposition that if initial action were ‘;’not in consonance with Law, subsequent proceedings would not sanctify the same). It is requested to kindly send this information sought on the postal mailing address of the applicant mentioned in application only in physical or hard copy form (not in any electronic form nor on email) please. Thanking You, Yours faithfully, Applicant.”
The CPIO furnished a reply to the appellant on 25.11.2022 stating as under:
“In this regard, your attention is invited to the Judgment passed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 1966-1967/2020 (Chief Information Commissioner V/s High Court of Gujarat and Another), wherein it has been held that in the absence of inherent inconsistency between the provisions of RTI Act and other law, overriding effect of RTI Act would not apply and the information to be accessed/certified copy on the judicial side to be obtained through the mechanism provided under the Rules, the provision of the RTI Act shall not be resorted to.
Therefore, you may apply for obtaining copies of judgments/documents etc. of a particular case after providing the complete details of case as provided under Chapter XVIII of C.A.T. Rules of Practice, 1993.
Further under Section 2(f) “information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force; read with Section 2 (j) of the RTI Act, 2005, the Public Authority can provide the material information which is available with him, and he is not supposed to create the information or reply to hypothetical questions.”
Being dissatisfied, the appellant filed a First Appeal dated 28.11.2022. FAA’s order, dated 05.12.2022, the reply furnished by the CPIO is as per the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.
Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied, the appellant approached the Commission with the instant Second Appeal.
Relevant Facts emerging during Hearing:
The following were present:-
Appellant: Not present.
Respondent: Rajiv Sharma, CPIO present through audio conference.
The CPIO submitted that the CAT Rules of Practice, 1993 provides for taking certified copies of OA orders and the Appellant was advised accordingly. He further nonetheless agreed to abide by the orders of the Commission, if any, in the matter.
The Commission based on a perusal of the facts on record observes that the CPIO & FAA have relied on a division bench judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Chief Information Commissioner vs High Court of Gujarat, CIVIL APPEAL NO(s).1966-1967 OF 2020 dated 04.03.2020 wherein the issue for determination was spelt down as under:
“2. The point falling for determination in this appeal is as regards the right of a third party to apply for certified copies to be obtained from the High Court by invoking the provisions of Right to Information Act without resorting to Gujarat High Court Rules prescribed by the High Court.”
While the conclusion was stated as under:
“43. We summarise our conclusion:-
(i) Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules stipulating a third party to have access to the information/obtaining the certified copies of the documents or orders requires to file an application/affidavit stating the reasons for seeking the information, is not inconsistent with the provisions of the RTI Act; but merely lays down a different procedure as the practice or payment of fees, etc. for obtaining information. In the absence of inherent inconsistency between the provisions of the RTI Act and other law, overriding effect of RTI Act would not apply.
(ii) The information to be accessed/certified copies on the judicial side to be obtained through the mechanism provided under the High Court Rules, the provisions of the RTI Act shall not be resorted to.”
Here, it is pertinent to note that the Apex Court vide an earlier judgment dated 11.04.2019 passed by a Division Bench in the matter of Institute of Company Secretaries of India vs. Paras Jain, CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5665/2014 had considered the following issue for determination:
“4. The short issue before us is when the answer scripts of appellant’s examination is sought whether the fee prescribed under Rule 4 of the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005 payable or that under Guideline No. 3 of the Guideline, Rules and Procedures for Providing Inspection and/or Supply of Certified Copy(ies) of Answer Book(s) to Students, framed by the Examination Committee of appellant’s statutory Council at its 148th Meeting held on 14.08.2013.
And, the bench held as under:
“12. Be that as it may, Guideline no.3 of the appellant does not take away from Rule 4, The Right to Information (Regulation of Fees and Cost) Rules, 2005 which also entitles the candidates to seek inspection and certified copies of their answer scripts. In our opinion, the existence of these two avenues is not mutually exclusive and it is up to the candidate to choose either of the routes. Thus, if a candidate seeks information under the provisions of the Right to Information, then payment has to be sought under the Rules therein, however, if the information is sought under the Guidelines of the appellant, then the appellant is at liberty to charge the candidates as per its guidelines.” Emphasis Supplied
Now, in the considered opinion of this bench, the Apex Court judgment of 11.04.2019 appears to be more applicable to the facts of the instant case in as much as the alternate mechanism of the extant CAT Rules referred to by the Respondent office is also providing for access to certified copy of orders while the Apex Court judgment of 04.03.2020 is in the context of the right of a third party to seek records of the judicial side of the Court vis-à-vis the provision of Section 11 of the RTI Act. Per contra, there is no reference to any third-party issue made by the CPIO or the FAA in the instant matter or any plausibility of invoking Section 11 of the RTI Act here. Therefore, the observation of the Apex Court stipulating that “the existence of these two avenues is not mutually exclusive” bears more relevance to the instant case.
Having observed as above, the Commission directs the CPIO to provide the information as sought for in the RTI Application to the Appellant free of cost within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order. A compliance report to this effect shall be duly sent to the Commission by the CPIO immediately thereafter.
The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
Citation: Girish Damodar Gole v. Central Administrative Tribunal, CIC/CADMT/A/2022/666640; Date of Decision: 20/09/2023