A recent Madras High Court order insisting RTI applicants to disclose the reason for seeking the information has sparked a debate with several legal experts and activists calling it an attempt to derail the RTI Act.
Terming the HC order “illegal”, a senior jurist in the Madras HC said the Section 6(2) of the Act clearly says an applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information. “This HC order contradicts with the very essence of the law,” he said.
A division bench of Justices N Paul Vasanthakumar and K Ravichandrababu on Wednesday had upheld a High Court official’s refusal to part with information relating to the appointment of law officers in the court. It said RTI applicants must give reasons for the query and that the information about the appointment of registrar general could not be brought under the RTI Act as it pertained to the internal functioning of the court and was not related to public interest.
Sindhu Shivalingam, Chennai-based anti-graft activist, said such orders would make the RTI Act toothless.
Former judge of the Madras High Court Justice K Chandru said the court has no business to ask the motive of the petition, it only needs the identity. He said the registrar general is a statutory post and the person holding the office is the principal executive officer. “It cannot be a secret appointment,” he said.
There were several attempts to derail the Act since beginning, the former judge said. “First it was the former CJI K G Balakrishnan who sought exemption from the act. Then there were attempts to appoint only judges in the information commission. Now, the Madras HC order is making the entire act unworkable by seeking the reason for filing an RTI petition,” Justice Chandru said.