Jhar HC | Person holding the post of First Appellate Authority cannot be treated as a public authority within the meaning of S. 2 (h) of RTI Act

Jharkhand High Court: Sujit Narayan Prasad, J. dismissed a writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India as he was aggrieved by the order passed by the Chief Information Commissioner on 24-12-2014.

The Chief Information Commissioner, in exercise of power conferred under Section 19(8)(b) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (‘RTI Act, 2005’), held the petitioner liable to make payment for an amount of Rs 50,000 by way of compensation to be paid in favour of the respondent for the harassment meted out to him by the petitioner. The Deputy Commissioner too had issued a communication to the petitioner to deposit the demand draft for the said amount in compliance of the order passed by Chief Information Commissioner.

The petitioner challenged these orders on the following grounds:

  • Since the petitioner was appointed as a First Appellate Authority, he cannot be held responsible to make payment of an amount of compensation.
  • The Chief Information Commissioner had committed illegality in view of the fact that the provision of Section 19 (8) (b), which provides power upon the Second Appellate Authority to make compensation upon the public authority and not upon the Commission.
  • The meaning of public authority has been defined under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005. Though the petitioner has the exercising power of a Public Information Officer, he cannot be held responsible for making payment of compensation, since he cannot be said to be a public authority within the meaning of Section 19 (8) (b) of the RTI Act, 2005.

High  Court, in this case, passed an ad-interim order that the petitioner, who held the post of First Appellate Authority, he cannot be treated as a public authority within the meaning of Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, 2005 even though he is presumed to be Public Information Officer. The Court further stated that in a case where the Deputy Commissioner could not pass an interim order, the petitioner will be subjected to irreparable loss.[Lalchand Dadel v. State Information Commission, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 1179, decided on 11-09-2019]

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