December 3, 2021 8:08:11 am
The second appeal of an RTI application seeking information about the scope of electronic surveillance in India will be decided within eight weeks, the Central Information Commission (CIC) told the Delhi High Court on Thursday.
“All endeavour shall be made to dispose of the pending appeal with expedition and in any case, the same shall be decided within a period of eight weeks from today,” the counsel representing CIC told the court.
The high court was hearing a plea by Apar Gupta, a lawyer, and executive director of the NGO Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) challenging the rejection of his RTI applications seeking statistical information on state-sponsored electronic surveillance.
Earlier, Justice Yashwant Varma pulled up the CIC for stating that currently, it has a huge backlog and is only hearing applications filed in 2019. The court said that in the last order, it had asked the CIC to give it a time frame within which the appeal would be decided.
“You are feeling overburdened? …You want a direction from the court. I have no problem in directing you, if that is what you want. But then we will also record your inability to decide it expeditiously,” said the court.
Questioning the claim about pendency before CIC, the court said, “You are not some big authority who is hearing litigations.” Seeking a reasonable time, the court said, “Don’t tell us this roster business of 2019.”
In 2018, Gupta filed six RTI applications seeking data related to interception, monitoring and decryption orders passed by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the IT Act. In January 2019, the authorities refused to share the information on grounds of national security. In May this year, the CIC asked the authorities to re-examine the issues, but in August, authorities said the information was unavailable as records are destroyed every six months in accordance with rules.
In his petition before the High Court, Gupta said he filed a second appeal before the CIC in August for hearing the matter but has not received any response till date. The petition argued the information could not have been destroyed during the pendency of the RTI proceedings. It also contended that the petitioner was only seeking the statistical information which has been made available previously and which is not exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act.
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