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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

“Information prior to 2005 cannot be denied”


Staff Reporter

MADURAI: The Madras High Court Bench here has rejected the argument that public authorities dealing with applications under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005 were not liable to provide details related to the period before the enactment of the legislation.

Dismissing a writ petition filed by a government-aided arts and science college in Tuticorin against an order passed by the State Information Commission, Justice R.S. Ramanathan said that the college could not refuse to part with details sought by an individual about its activities since 1999.

The judge disagreed with the petitioner's contention that compelling an authority to part with information prior to 2005 would amount to giving retrospective effect to the Act. He said that it was a substantial legislation which recognises the right of every person to obtain information.

“The purpose of enacting the legislation itself would become meaningless if the Court accepts the argument of the learned counsel for the petitioner that no information or documents earlier to 2005 can be asked for by an RTI applicant… A citizen is entitled to call for information related to any period,” the judge said.

He also rejected the petitioner's other argument that the State Information Commission had violated the principles of natural justice by not giving an opportunity to the college explain its stand before directing the institution to provide information sought by the RTI applicant.

The Act does not require the Commission to issue notice before ordering disclosure of information.

“Further the question of violation of principles of natural justice would arise only when a person is affected by the passing of an order or any civil consequences followed by that order,” the judge added.

He also held that the petitioner college, being a government aided institution, was liable to provide the information as directed by the Information Commission.

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