Ex-info commissioner alleges legal intimidation of CIC by govt
New Delhi: Former Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu Tuesday alleged that the Central Information Commission was facing threats of litigations filed against it by the government and sought President Ram Nath Kovind's intervention.
In a letter to the President, he highlighted a global trend of Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) and said it is a "type of frivolous lawsuit, not undertaken to be won, necessarily, but to intimidate the target into ceasing public activities such as speaking out against an organisation or a person".
He cited two orders related to the RBI to drive home his point.
"Here the target is the CIC and the citizens. Unfortunately the government bodies are SLAPPing writ petitions right, left and centre against the Respondent No. 1 - CIC and Respondent No. 2 - the Citizen who were asking for information as empowered by RTI Act," he said.
Acharyulu, who had delivered some path-breaking orders including directions to the RBI to comply with the Supreme Court orders in disclosing wilful defaulter, approached Kovind saying the RBI has filed a petition in the Bombay High Court making the CIC as a party in two separate cases.
He had also issued a show cause notice to RBI Governor Urijit Patel for defiance of Supreme Court upholding the orders of former Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi asking it to disclose wilful defaulters.
The RBI has also challenged another order of the CIC on July 4 in which CPIO of RBI was issued show cause notice by Information Commissioner Sudhir Bhargava for not disclosing details of foreign donors of local NGOs.
Government offices want their "rights" to be protected from the Information Commission created by the Union of India as per the will of the Parliament, Acharyulu said.
"CIC is supposed to act as Information Tribunal to adjudicate second appeals without fear or favour. But I would like to bring it to your Excellency's notice that Information Commissioners are feeling 'legally' intimidated from discharging their legal duties," he said.
Citing example of notices being sent to him in three capacities--as individual, as Information Commissioner, and as a person representing the Central Information Commission-- by the Gujarat High Court on a plea of Gujarat University against his order of disclosing degree details of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said as he is respondent number one, two and three, how does he defend in three capacities.
"The Union of India, in which CIC is a part, challenges order of CIC saying that educational qualifications of a public servant as his private information and its disclosure will cause unwarranted invasion of his privacy," he said.
Is it not 'legal' intimidation against functioning of a statutory body created to enforce constitutional right to information, which is proclaimed to be part of fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, he questioned.