In an increasingly knowledge-based society, information and access to information hold the key to resources, benefits and distribution of power. Information, more than any other element, is of critical importance in a participatory democracy.
A Division Bench, comprising Justices D. Murugesan and K.K. Sasidharan made the observation in its judgment while upholding a single Judge's order directing the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) to furnish the information sought by two persons and, failing which, face action by the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission (TNSIC.)
The Bench observed: “It is only when people know how the government is functioning they can fulfil the role which democracy (has) assigned to them and make democracy a really effective participatory democracy. Right to information is basic to any democracy.”
The duo had filed applications under the RTI Act seeking particulars regarding the number of investigations completed, details of persons convicted in four years from 2003-2004, post held by them, charges framed and recommendations made to the Vigilance Commissioner after investigation.
They also wanted to know how many police officers were caught during raids, their names, designation and address, amount recovered from each officer and details of departmental action against them.
As the particulars were not furnished, they preferred an appeal before the Appellate Authority, which also did not furnish the information.
The reason for not giving the information was that the RTI Act would not apply to DVAC as per a G.O. dated August 26, 2008.
The applicants approached the TNSIC, which directed the public authority to furnish the information sought by the applicants.
The TNSIC's order was challenged by the Superintendent of Police (SP), Central Range, DVAC, in writ petitions. By a common order of January 12, 2010, a single judge dismissed the petitions. Hence, the present appeals by the SP.
The government contended that as the High Court had upheld the validity of the G.O, the Chief Information Commissioner should not have given a direction that the information be furnished.
The Bench said that in terms of Section 24 (4) of RTI Act, the State government was empowered to notify that nothing contained in the Act would apply to such intelligence and security organisation, being organisations established by the government.
But, the power to exempt from the law was not available to the State government even in case of intelligence and security organisations in respect of information pertaining to allegations of corruption and human rights violations. The application of the notification depended on the nature of information required. As the particulars sought by the applicants related to corruption, the G.O. had no application to the facts of the case.
Keywords: RTI Act