HC PIO order declining info ultra vires: Punjab Infocom

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Chandigarh, Jul 6 (UNI) In what appears to be the first decision of its kind, the Punjab State Information Commission has set aside as ultra vires the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court's principal information officer (PIO) and the concerned appellate authority in declining an information sought under the right to information (RTI) act, 2005 by an applicant and remanded the case back for deciding the information request afresh.

The Commission's order passed by the Chief Information Commissioner Rajan Kashyap and state information commissioner P P S Gill on June 25, 2008 also gave liberty to the applicant to file first and second appeal under the RTI if he was dissatisfied with the order of the PIO of the high court after remand of the case.

The case relates to applicant Jagdeep Singh Sandhu a resident of Krishan Nagar, Civil Lines, Ludhiana who on December 6, 2007 had in a complaint sent to the HC Chief Justice as also to the chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) had referred to the selection of Baljinder Singh to the Punjab Civil Service (judicial).The applicant had alleged that there were criminal cases pending against this candidate besides proceedings for the recovery of income tax.

The applicant had sought a certified copy of the form submitted by Baljinder Singh for appearing in the PCS(J) 2007. He also wanted to be intimated about complete details of the progress made on his complaint and certain other related issues.

However, the High Court PIO vide his order of December 12,2007 declined to supply the information stating that the requested information cannot be supplied in view of rule 4(a) of the rules framed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court under section 28 of RTI act,known as Punjab and Haryana High Court (RTI) Rules, 2007 restraining information which is not in public domain and is not related to judicial functions and duties of the court .

Applicant Sandhu's appeal against PIO order before the appellate authority of the High Court under the RTI act, was filed on December 18,2007 . As there was no order of disposal even after 45 days of filing of the appeal, he approached the state Information Commission again on February 5 this year . During this period, the appellate authority of the High Court dismissed his first appeal on March 4 holding PIO rightly declined to provide the information on account of it being exempt from disclosure.

In the context of the order of the PIO founded on provisions of rule 4 of the High Court (RTI) rules under section 28 to frame rules by competent authority to carry out provisions of the act, the Commission observed that the power of delegated legislation is exercised only for purpose of giving effect to the provisions of the act by framing rules on procedural aspects of matters within the statue. The rules framed in exercise of delegated legislation cannot supplant the main legislation nor can the rules be used to curtail or enlarge the scope of any statutory provision, the Commission has said while affirming that exempted categories have been catalogued in various clauses of section 8 and 9.

The rules framed by the competent authority under section 28 to the extent these are inconsistent with the provisions of parent legislation RTI are ultra vires, the Commission observed while making it clear that no request for information can be rejected on the basis of rules creating added categories of exemption except those mentioned in section 8 and 9 of the act.

What is required to be ascertained in the instant case is whether information demanded is exempt from disclosure under any of the clauses mentioned in section 8 and 9 with reference to provisions of rule 4, the Commission order stated while setting aside the orders of PIO and the appellate authority of the High Court respectively on December 12, 2007 and March 4, 2008 and remanded the case back to the High Court for deciding the same afresh.


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