HC aligns its RTI rules with CIC guidelines

March 6, 2009: The Times of India

New Delhi: After drawing heavy criticism for framing RTI rules that went against the parent Act, the Delhi High Court, in a major climbdown, has amended some of the rules. 

Most notably, it has done away with the requirement that RTI applicants show how they are an ‘‘affected party’’ while seeking information, a caveat forbidden by the Act. 

A notification to this effect has been issued and figures on HC’s website from Thursday. The move is an attempt to allign HC’s special RTI rules with the parent Act. TOI had, in December last year, reported that a judges’ committee of HC was reviewing the rules as the Chief Justice had admitted some of the HC provisions ran contrary to the Act. 

HC’s rules on information sharing have been repeatedly held to be ‘‘in direct conflict with RTI Act’’ by the Central Information Commission in its rulings. 

In its amendment exercise, HC has deleted Clause 4 (IV) of RTI rules that permitted it to allow access of information only to ‘‘affected persons’’ and deny to those who don’t explain their locus on why such an information is required. 

HC has also tinkered with Section 5 (A) that exempted it from revealing any information which is ‘‘not already in the public domain’’. This meant HC could deny information to a seeker on the ground it was available elsewhere, a rule frowned upon by transparency advocates. 

The third key allignment lies in Rule 4 (I) that till now gave the court’s public information officer a luxury of 15-20 days to respond to an RTI plea, which sought information beyond his jurisdiction. He has to now inform the applicant within five days and return the plea. 

The CIC had repeatedly taken a dim view of these sections. Speaking to Times City, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah welcomed the move. ‘‘I have been adjourning cases related to Delhi HC because we were waiting for the rules to be brought in allignment with the RTI Act, as had been promised. This is heartening news,’’ the CIC said.
  
KEY CHANGES   

‘Affected Party’ clause done away with. An RTI applicant will now not be required to show how info sought affects him   

‘Public Domain’ clause removed. HC will now have to also furnish info that is not available elsewhere
   
In case info sought is not in court’s jurisdiction but pertains to other authorities, PIO to respond within 5 days

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