Striking a blow for transparency and accountability in government, the Gauhati High Court, Imphal bench today dismissed petitions filed by the state government challenging directives of the State Information Commission asking the government to make public information relating to various judicial and magisterial inquiries conducted since the start of insurgency in the state.
A single bench of the High Court, comprising of Justice BD Agarwal, ruling on two separate petitions filed by chief secretary Jarnail Singh and the joint secretary home, Th Chittaranjan Singh, has also directed the government authorities to furnish the information sought to the applicant through the state information commission within the stipulated time.
Briefing mediapersons in this connection, Wahengbam Joykumar, research and programme associate of the Centre for Organisation Research and Education, CORE, said he had filed a request under the Right to Information Act in February this year to the state information officer, home department, seeking detailed information relating to inquiries conducted under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952 from 1980 to 2006 in Manipur.
Another request was filed in May, seeking furnishing of information relating to magisterial inquiries conducted from 1980 till March 2007.
In both cases, the state information officer, home department, namely Th Chittaranjan Singh, joint secretary, home, failed to furnish the requested information, as a consequence of which Joykumar filed complaints with the Chief Information Commissioner, Manipur, RK Angousana.
Ruling in connection with the first application, the CIC, Manipur, in the month of March directed the SPIO, home department, to furnish the information sought, viz. total number of inquiries conducted under the Commission of Inquiry Act since 1980, with their detailed particulars, total number of inquiry reports submitted to the government of Manipur, the copies of inquiry reports so submitted, as well as memoranda of action taken which had been laid before the appropriate legislature and discussed and approved and for which final action is over, to Joykumar within a period of 15 days.
Instead of complying, the state authorities piled a petition before the Gauhati High Court, Imphal bench, being WP(C) case no. 478 of 2007 challenging the decision of the state chief information commission.
Joykumar also disclosed that in connection with his second application, filed on May 19, 2007 seeking information relating magisterial inquiries conducted in the state since the year 1980 till March 2007, the CIC, Manipur had in August directed the SPIO to furnish the required information within the stipulated time, but the SPIO filed another case before the Guahati High Court challenging this under WP (C) case no 733 of 2007.
In final hearings on these two petitions today, the Gauhati High Court, Imphal bench, dismissed both petitions filed by the state government and ruled in favour of the respondents, he informed.
Joykumar further observed that the reluctance of the government to furnish the information he request, to the extent of approaching the High Court over it, indicated the open violation of right to information of the state government, and its preference for non-transparency and non-accountability.
He also said the general public should not hesitate to seek information from the state government by using the RTI Act for bringing a transparent and accountable administration.