The Bombay High Court on Friday directed the BMC to provide facilities at its ward offices for hearing appeals filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act through virtual platform to appellants, who wish to argue their appeals through video conference.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Sarang V Kotwal was hearing a PIL filed by advocate Mayur Faria, who had sought directions to BMC for online hearing of RTI appeals while contending that the civic body was asking appellants to physically appear and argue before the competent authority. The bench had asked the BMC to reply to the plea on Tuesday.
After perusing the reply, the court on Friday observed, “Although the respondent is willing to hear the petitioner through video conferencing, there is no statement as to how the BMC proposes to extend opportunity of hearing to other persons, who have carried appeals under section 19(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 against the orders of rejection of their requests for information passed by the relevant State Public Information Officers.”
The court added that the PIL has been instituted not only to safeguard the interest of the petitioner, but also to ensure that facilities are made available to other information-seekers like him, who could not appear in-person to prosecute their appeals before the first appellate authority.
Advocate Yamuna Parekh for BMC sought two weeks to take instructions and respond to the query.
The bench, while granting the same, observed: “We make it clear that within this period, the competent authority of the BMC shall take appropriate decision for extending facilities of hearing through the virtual platform so that maximum number of appellants, who wish to argue their appeals through video-conferencing, may be covered.”
The court posted the matter for further hearing on August 14.
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