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Supreme Court Issues Notice on PIL Challenging RTI Second Appeal Documentation Requirements



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The Supreme Court has recently taken cognizance of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that questions the necessity of re-submitting documents during the second appeal process under the Right to Information Act (RTI). The PIL, filed by Kishan Chand Jain, challenges the provisions in Rules 8 and 9 of the RTI Rules, 2012, which mandate the submission of extensive documentation with second appeals to the Central Information Commission (CIC).

According to Jain, these procedural hurdles disproportionately affect information seekers, particularly those from marginalized sections of society. He argues that the strict documentation requirements often lead to appeals being returned without addressing the underlying merits of the case. Citing data that shows over 1,09,286 appeals were returned by the CIC due to lack of proper documentation from 2015 to June 5, 2024.

Rule 9 of the RTI Rules stipulates that failure to comply with Rule 8, which necessitates specific documents to be filed with the second appeal, results in the appeal being returned by the CIC. Jain contends that these rules effectively undermine the statutory right to a second appeal granted to information seekers under Section 19(3) of the RTI Act.

Jain’s primary argument revolves around the redundancy involved in resubmitting documents that are already part of the official records maintained by the Central Public Information Officers (CPIOs) and First Appellate Authorities (FAAs). He maintains that requiring appellants to duplicate these submissions and subsequently rejecting appeals for non-compliance with Rule 8 goes against the fundamental right of citizens to seek information.

The petitioner asserts that Rule 9, as currently framed, is discretionary (‘may’ return the appeal) rather than mandatory (‘shall’ return the appeal), making the CIC’s practice of rejecting second appeals for failure to adhere to Rule 8 arbitrary and unjust. He contends that procedural matters should not obstruct the substantive right to appeal enshrined in Section 19(3) of the RTI Act, designed to uphold the citizens’ right to information.

In addition to challenging the practices of the CIC, Jain highlights that State Information Commissions (SICs) also return second appeals under Section 19(3) due to similar documentation requirements imposed by the respective state governments. He cites specific rules set by the governments of UP, Haryana, and West Bengal that further complicate the appeal process for information seekers.

Seeking relief from the court, Jain requests that Rule 9 of the RTI Rules be declared non-mandatory and that the practice of returning appeals for documentation non-compliance be discontinued. He proposes the establishment of a user-friendly online filing system that eliminates the need for redundant document submissions during second appeals, along with a call for the rules in question to be deemed unconstitutional and in violation of key provisions of the RTI Act.

Rachel Adams

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