The repeated filing of applications under the Right To Information (RTI) Act on various issues by a retired Army official from Palakkad have irritated the State Information Commission (SIC) to the extent of it issuing an order to the Palakkad Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) not to accept RTI petitions from anyone from the district and ordered to send them directly to the public authority concerned or the commission.
That the order is particularly targeted at Major (Rtd) P.M.Ravindran is evident from the fact that it mentions his name as “one example in point”.
He has filed scores of RTI applications, mostly on the performance of the SIC, the latest being the one seeking information on the expenses incurred for an SIC sitting held in Palakkad.
As per Section 6 (3) of the RTI Act public information officers in district headquarters concerned have to receive applications under the RTI Act and forward them to the respective public authority.
The State Government has entrusted the RDOs to receive RTI pleas and transfer them to the departments concerned.
Legal experts say that the SIC order is against the RTI Act. “Under the
RTI Act, the SIC is not authorised to issue orders like this. This can be challenged in the High Court.
But at the same time, there should be provisions to deal with what is called ‘vexatious litigants’. When the Central Information Commission convened a meeting of all the SICs last month, it was proposed to bring an amendment to deal with those who overuse the RTI Act.
But in this case, the argument that the person is a vexatious litigant cannot be raised as an alibi to justify this unlawful order,” said advocate D.B.Binu. He said that the SIC can only implement the Act and cannot meddle with its provisions.
“Even courts cannot act against the provisions of a piece of legislation. This order should be opposed as it will have an impact on the positive use of RTI Act,” said advocate M.R.Hariraj.
When contacted, State Chief Information Commissioner Palat Mohandas was more scathing in his remarks against Ravindran.
“He has become a nuisance. He doesn’t know anything about the RTI Act though he acts as an apostle of it. Who is he to dictate terms to us?”, said Mohandas. Asked about the order, he said that he can comment on it only after checking it.
B F Firos
KOCHI: Sunday November 11 2007