Appellate Authority under RTI Act not liable to any penal action; disciplinary action recommended by CIC quashed

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Rajendra Menon, CJ, and V. Kameswar Rao, J. dismissed an appeal preferred by the writ petitioner against the order of the Writ Court allowing the petition filed by the respondents against the order of Chief Information Commission.

The appellant had filed an application under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The CPIO concerned refused to furnish the same while giving the appellant an opportunity to carry out inspection of the record and copies thereof. The appellant filed an appeal before the Appellate Authority prescribed under the Act. The Appellate Authority dismissed the appeal. Thereafter, the matter reached to the CIC who decided the matter in favour of the appellant and directed furnishing of certified copies while also recommending disciplinary action against the Appellate Authority. Challenging the order of CIC, a writ petition was filed by the Union of India which was allowed by the Writ Court. Aggrieved by the same, the appellant filed the instant appeal.

The High Court perused Section 20 of the Act and observed that it was clear that sub-section (2) thereof makes only a CPIO liable for disciplinary action. Further, it was also observed that an Appellate Authority under Section 19(1) is classified as an officer senior in rank to the CPIO. meaning thereby that the CPIO is a different authority from the Appellate Authority. The legislative intent was only to take a disciplinary action against CPIO and not against the Appellate Authority as was evident from Section 20(2). Thus, it was held that no penal action could be taken against the Appellate Authority under RTI Act. As such the appeal was dismissed. [R.K. Jain v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine Del 10957, dated 29-08-2018]

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