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Views: 1483 | 26-03-08, 07:55 PM #1
Applicant can ask for copy of objections filed by third party with PIO....
In a recent decision, CIC has ruled that a applicant has full rights to be given the copy of the objections filed by a "third party" against disclosure of information by PIO:
It is to be noted that the third-party procedure to be followed under the RTI Act is governed, among others, by Section 11(1) of the Act. A public authority is required to consult the third-party, who might have provided the information in confidence to the public authority, and then make a determination about disclosure of the information especially in the context of the exemptions in Section 8(1) as spelt-out in Section 11(3) of the Act. The decision of the CPIO is to be communicated to the third-party. A reading of sub-sections (1) and (3) of Section 11 of the RTI Act makes it clear that a procedure about consulting the third-party in writing is to be followed in a matter which is covered by these sub-sections of Section 11. It is also clear that the only reason why a third-party related information cannot be disclosed to a petitioner is the fact that the third-party objects to the disclosure and that the CPIO / AA accede to those objections and decline to disclose the information to the petitioner. A decision not to disclose the information to the petitioner in view of the objections of the third-party is itself justiciable. The petitioner has every right to question the decision of the CPIO or the AA about not disclosing a third-party related information ― a right which cannot be discharged unless the full facts about the reason for objection by the third-party is disclosed to the petitioner. A petitioner cannot effectively argue his case for disclosure of an information unless he is fully apprised of the objections of the third-party including, no doubt, the decision of the CPIO / AA thereon. Disclosure of the information about the objections of the third-party is a key-element in a petitioner challenging the decision of the respondents flowing from the third-party objection. It is in the interest of justice that not only the decision of the respondents but also the basis on which that decision was made be disclosed to a petitioner. It is an admitted fact that central to the decision of the AA in reversing the order of the CPIO in this case was the objection of the third-party. The appellant herein is entitled to know as to what it was that the third-party stated before the AA that made the latter decide that the information need not be disclosed to the petitioner.
8. The ground urged by the AA that the requested information would harm the personal interest of the third-party is beside the point. The information requested here by appellant is not any information given by the third-party in confidence to the respondents. What he wants is disclosure of the written submission of the third-party before AA as part of a Section 11(1) proceeding before the latter, which was also the basis on which AA declined to divulge third-party information to the appellant. This is a legitimate request and cannot be withheld from a petitioner. Without this information, the appellant shall not be able to make an informed judgement about challenging the AA’s decision. Denying him the requested information will mean handicapping him in exercising his legal right. This will be contrary to the canons of natural justice.
9. In consideration of the above, the Commission rejects the contention of the AA and directs that the information, viz. objections of the third-party, should be disclosed to the applicant.
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