Millennium Post

RTI Act in high courts

It is extremely unfortunate that the high courts in the country have not been as forthcoming as they should be when it comes to the application of the Right to Information Act to themselves. This has been found through a study conducted by the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration, which is a government institute. It appears that many high courts have prescribed rules for seeking information under the Right to Information Act which are in violation of the parent act. Even worse, some of the high courts have imposed restrictions on seeking information which are in addition to the eight prescribed under the act. Most startlingly, many high courts insist on knowing the motive behind seeking the information, which is not allowed under the act. In some states the rules of the RTI have been made subservient to those of the court while in others the chief justice’s approval is required before the information can be provided, both of which make getting the information difficult. Even the penalties for failure to provide information do not attract as high a penalty in the high courts as they should under the act. The result of all these obstacles is to make the process of seeking information from the courts exceedingly difficult so much so as to seem to vitiate the very purpose of the act. It is difficult to understand the reluctance of the high courts to part with information. As judicial authorities they are called upon to pronounce in cases of violations of this very act in cases concerning other public authorities even as they sit in judgement on various rights issues in other cases. Presumably, no one else should be as aware of the rights involved as the high courts.

It is not as if high courts are exempt from the RTI Act. High courts are public authorities within the meaning of the RTI Act and are therefore dutybound to supply the information asked for by concerned citizens. The purpose of the act is to allow citizens to secure access to information under the control of public authorities, in order to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority. Many citizens are rightly concerned about the workings of the courts given the enormous inefficiency in terms of backlog as well as the issue of corruption, with charges surfacing every now and then. There are many aspects about the administration of justice in this country that are obscure which only the light of the RTI Act can clear. It is only when the revelation of information in some cases is likely to conflict with important public interests that it may be withheld from the public. It is, therefore, for the judicial authorities to take note of the findings of this study and find appropriate remedies so that information about high courts becomes readily available to the public under the RTI Act.
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