The Central Information Commission has held that a committee functioning under the directions of Supreme Court is a public authority and is obliged to provide information under the RTI Act.
"The Supreme Court of India itself is covered under the RTI Act, and has repeatedly submitted itself to enquiry by this Commission...it cannot be argued that a Committee functioning under its directions sees itself outside the purview of the Act," said Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah.
The direction came after appellant Poonam Sharma, who sought information on the criteria adopted by the State Fee Committee to fix the fees of self-financing institutions from Deputy Director of Higher Education, Delhi, moved an appeal saying that she received a reply that the Director's office is not competent to divulge information on proceedings of the Fee Committee.
In its response, the Department of Higher Education said that since the sought information pertains to the State Fee Committee, the matter had been referred to Justice Usha Mehra, (former Judge of Delhi HC) , Chairperson of State Fee Committee, to obtain prior permission to supply the required information.
The Chairperson returned the file saying the panel does not fall under the purview of RTI Act as it acts as per directions of the Supreme Court. Rejecting this contention, the CIC said that when the Supreme Court itself is covered under the RTI Act, and has repeatedly submitted itself to enquiry by the Commission, it cannot be argued that a Committee functioning under the directions of a public authority sees itself as outside the purview of the Act.