Monday, October 7, 2013

Using RTI for Production of Documents in an Arbitration? No Problem.

As per this report in ET, the Central Information Commission ruled that pendency of an arbitration proceeding is not a valid reason for denial of information by a government department under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. The Central Information Commissioner in his order held that: 

“The only exemption in sub-judice matters is regarding what has been expressly forbidden by a court or a tribunal and what may constitute contempt of court," 

In the instant case, the petitioner who has an arbitration matter going on with MTNL, had filed 34 applications to seek information from MTNL regarding the expenditure already being inquired into by the authorities. The Information officer had refused to disclose the information citing section 8(1)(h) of the RTI which states that: 

“Exemption from disclosure of information.- 

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen,-(h) information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders” 

The Central Information Commissioner did not find this explanation of the Information officer valid and passed the order in favour of the appellant. 

This method seems to be an interesting way to seek production of documents/discovery from government departments, bypassing the usual procedure of asking the tribunal to do so.

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