Karnataka High Court: Suraj Govindaraj J., while allowing the present petition made significant remarks related to the application of RTI Act, 2005 and Right to seek information as a facet to Fundamental Right to freedom.
This writ petition is filed under Articles 226 and 227 of Constitution of India praying to quash the Order dated 18-06-2020 passed by the respondent 2, Karnataka Information Commission and consequently dismiss the said case filed by the respondent 1.
- Whether a candidate who has appeared for the examination conducted by Public Service Commission can as a matter of right under the Right to Information Act, seek for copies of his evaluated answer scripts depicting the marks awarded?
- Whether any condition/s precedent are to be satisfied, by an applicant, in order to seek for furnishing of evaluated and marked answer scripts?
- Whether the exceptions carved out in the decision of the Supreme Court in Angesh Kumar’s Case is applicable in the present Case?
- Whether the Information Commission acting under Section 19(8)(a)(ii) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 can remove/dismiss the Public Information Officer already appointed by the Public Service Commissions and appoint another Public Information Officer in place of such removed person?
- Are there any qualification prescribed under the Right to Information Act for a person to be appointed as a Public Information Officer?
With respect to each of the aforementioned issued, the Court categorically answered as follows;
- Having regard to the decision of the Supreme Court in CBSE v. Aditya Bandopadhyay, (2011) 8 SCC 497, it is seen that where an application had been made to the Central Board of Secondary Education, the Supreme Court has held that it was the right of the candidate to seek for inspection of the evaluated answer books of such candidate, subject however to the condition that the names of evaluators had to be severed from such answer books.
Para 66. “The right to information is a cherished right. Information and right to information are intended to be formidable tools in the hands of responsible citizens to fight corruption and to bring in transparency and accountability. The provisions of the RTI Act should be enforced strictly and all efforts should be made to bring to light the necessary information under clause 9(b) of Section 4(1) of the Act which relates to securing transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities and in discouraging corruption. But in regard to other information (that is, information other than those enumerated in Sections 4(1)(b) and (c) of the Act), equal importance and emphasis are given to other public interests (like confidentiality of sensitive information, fidelity and fiduciary relationships, efficient operation of Governments, etc.,)”
Institute of Companies Secretaries of India v. Paras Jain, 2019 SCC Online SC 764; “Thus it is clear that the avenue for seeking certified copies as well as inspection is provided both in the Right to Information Act as well as the statutory guidelines of the Appellant.”
The Court in addition to the above-cited precedents cited relevant provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.
- The applicant has to satisfy the parameters laid down in the Angesh Kumar’s case that is, (1) The applicant has to be a candidate in the exam (2) The applicant can only seek for his own answer scripts (3) The applicant is required to make an application in the prescribed form (4) The applicant is required to make payment of the due amounts for furnishing of the information pertaining to his evaluated and marked answer scripts (5) The information sought for should not come within the exceptions/exemptions under Section of the RTI Act.
- The decision of the Supreme Court in Angesh Kumar’s Case refers to an embargo as regard providing confidential information of a candidate to third parties, information as regards the persons who have corrected the answer scripts. In the present case what the petitioner is seeking for is his own evaluated answer script. He has not sought for any information relating to any third party or any confidential information, but has sought for information only pertaining to himself. The Court disallowing the restrictions set by the aforementioned case, in the present facts and circumstances, observed, “Freedom of Information being a fundamental right as also human right any person would be entitled to apply for and receive information especially pertaining to himself which is held by any public authority. The reasons for requesting such information may be myriad. Whatever the reasons may be, when any particular information sought for is relating to the person applying for such information, the authorities concerned cannot refuse the furnishing of such information.”
- After interpreting the relevant provisions of the Act, the Court said, “It was impermissible for the 2nd respondent to have removed the existing Public Information Officer and or appoint another Public Information Officer in place of such removed person.”
- With respect to issue 4, the Court said, “There being no qualification prescribed under the RTI Act or F.I. Act, the public Authority concerned can appoint anyone as the Public Information Officer of that Authority. Consequently, the appointment having been made by the Public Authority, the Information Commission cannot seek to remove such a person appointed and or appoint any other person or Authority as a PIO. The powers of appointment or removal are solely vested with the public Authority, where the PIO is to be appointed.”
While allowing the present petition in part, the Court held that an applicant under RTI Act, 2005, seeking information related to himself, shall have an unqualified right against the same and the precedent set by the Angesh Kumar case should be interpreted in consonance with the facts and circumstances of the case at hand.[Karnataka Public Service Commission v. Vinay Kumar Ramaiah, 2020 SCC OnLine Kar 1636, decided on 26-08-2020]
Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together