Thursday, December 17, 2015

Live Law

Live Law

Live Law

Political Parties and Supreme Court PIO defying the orders passed by CIC -

Jagjit Singh filed an RTI application to find out if the vehicles being used in the Supreme Court are following its own direction, which banned usage of tinted glass in all vehicles. Singh’s RTI also sought information about the cars in order to know about compliance of various norms by the Supreme Court.

On 26th April, 2013 the Central Information Commission (CIC) gave an order in favour of Singh and asked Supreme Court’s Public Information Officer (PIO) to furnish the following information to Singh:

i) The list of cars in use in the Supreme Court at the time of the RTI application excluding the details of the cars allotted to the judges, the list to mention the make and number of the car;

ii) The total kilometers each car had run in the preceding one year as per the log book of each;

iii) The total maintenance cost of each car, if separately available. If not, the total maintenance cost of the cars during this period;

iv) The attested photocopy of the pollution check certificates for all the cars, separately, duly masking the identity of the judges, if their names appear on the certificates;

v) The details of those cars originally fitted with tinted glasses or in which, the glasses had been coated with film to make it tinted, including the cost incurred on such conversion;

vi) The list of cars from which the tinted glass, if any, or the film, if any, coated on the glass later had been removed and the cost incurred on that, if this information is available in a recorded form;

vii) The list of cars which continue to have tinted glasses or film coating as on the date of the RTI application.

However, the PIO of the Supreme Court has chosen to blatantly disregard the statutory order of the CIC, and has not even bothered to get a stay order from a Court.

Former Central Information Commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi speaking to Live Law said, “CIC does not have the practical means of enforcing the order. When powerful institutions like the Apex Court and political parties gang up and choose to defy the order, there is nothing much CIC can do. None of them have obtained stay order on the decision of the CIC; they are effectively ignoring to enforce the order and are in contempt of court.”

Similarly, CIC in its recent order dated 3rd June 2013, had ruled that political parties which are substantially financed by the Central government are held to be public authorities under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act. The commission then directed the presidents and general secretaries of the six political parties to designate CPIOs and the Appellate Authorities at their headquarters in six weeks’ time i.e. 15th July 2013. The CPIOs so appointed were required to respond to the RTI applications extracted in the order. The deadline of 16th July, 2013 is over and our political parties are a far cry from complying with the provisions of mandatory proactive disclosure of the order. None of them have appointed PIO’s or disclosed any details of their working on their respective websites.

Political parties are now contemplating to amend the RTI Act, 2005 to ensure that they do not come under the scrutiny of RTI Act.

Commenting on this, Gandhi told Live Law, “Since all political parties unanimously believe that the CIC order is bad in law, instead of amending the RTI Act, they should approach the appellate Court. The only reason I can think of, for them not to approach the Court is that they are lying and in fact, they believe that the order is legally sound. Attempting to directly amend the RTI Act only because these parties cannot be inconvenienced is an extraordinarily bad option.”

Gandhi added, “There must be a mutual agreement to obey the law and powerful institutions must respect the law. Their tendency (Supreme Court and the political parties) to defy the orders of CIC is wrong. It is not in the interest of the democracy. When powerful institutions openly flout the law, everybody will follow and there will be a total breakdown of the law of the country. I really hope they take corrective action otherwise we are headed in Pakistan’s direction.