Dispose of cases in 45 days from 2nd appeal, HC to info panel

Dispose of cases in 45 days from 2nd appeal, HC to info panel

RTI applicant's plea, seeking Modi's poll expenses, pending since Oct '14

Dispose of cases in 45 days from 2nd appeal, HC to info panel

In a landmark judgment, the Karnataka High Court has recently held that the Information Commission should dispose of cases within 45 days of filing the second appeal.

The order, passed on October 29, 2015, by its nature will have implication nationwide as it fills a major vacuum in the RTI Act, 2005, as it sets a deadline of 45 days for the Information Commissions to dispose of the case.

It offers great relief to lakhs of RTI applicants across the country awaiting disposal of cases for years together. It will pave the way for fast disposal of cases and end the huge backlog at the Information Commissions. There are instances where the older cases are still pending, whereas new cases got early hearing, leading to injustice to RTI applicants.

The case pertains to RTI application filed by Jayaprakash Reddy, a resident of Chintamani in Chikkaballapur with the Union of India regarding the expenditure by the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Lok Sabha elections.

The applicant had filed the first appeal before the first appellate authority and then the second appeal before the Central Information Commission. Even after a year, the matter did not come up for hearing, compelling the applicant to seek directions from the Karnataka High Court, where Reddy made the Union of India and the Central Information Commission parties.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Anand Byrareddy observed that sub-section-6 of Section-19 of the RTI Act does provide for a time within which a first appeal is to be decided, not exceeding 45 days from the date of filing.

The first respondent has indefinitely postponed the hearing and is not deciding the second appeal, compelling the applicant to approach the High Court.

Justice Byrareddy noted that no time limit was prescribed to decide a second appeal. Therefore, it would have to be interpreted that when no time is prescribed, it would follow that it ought to be decided within a reasonable time.

Since there is a time limit prescribed for deciding a first appeal, it would be safe to conclude that a similar period would apply insofar as deciding the second appeal, for otherwise, it would lead to a situation where the object of the Act is not achieved if the authority should indefinitely postpone hearing and decision of a second appeal, the judge said.

He said, “Consequently, it would be deemed that the second appeal would also have to be decided within a period of 45 days if not earlier from the date of filing.”

Four weeks’ time
The judge noted that since the second appeal filed by the petitioner is pending before the first respondent since October 2014, and more than one year has lapsed, it would be in the fitness of things to direct the first respondent to expedite the consideration of the appeal and pass appropriate orders within a period of four weeks, if not earlier, from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.

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