Harnessed with lack of accountability and comradeship with the subordinate PIO the general tendency of most of the Appellate Authorities are to repeat the verdict of the PIO in repy to First Appeal. I think the appellant should specifically seek ' for an opportunity for being heard 'while considering the first appeal. In fact the appellant should add it as one of the prayers. During the hearing bring out the lacunas in the reply of the PIO and plead to include your arguments in the orders of FAA. In one of my cases I had even handed over my short notes of arguments which the AA could not ignore and naturally its inclusion in the orders was of immence help to me.Further this has made it obligatory for the AA to consider the appeal seriously.
Generally the AAs being located in the same office of PIO, it is not difficult for an appellant to attend the hearing. Recently I have specifically started adding in my prayer to give me an opportunity for being heard during the hearing of the AA stating that such an action can save undue expenditure to the government as well as to the appellant apart from wasting precious time and effort of the SIC.
Generally the AA escape attending hearing on a plea of requirement of their presence in the District due to some odd cituation. In case he had refused to consider the appellant's plea for hearing, the AA may find it difficult to justify his absence during SIC's hearing. and the AAs generally does not like to attend hearing of the SIC. Net result is that many cases are likely to be settled at first appeal stage ie., within 2 months.
In all of First Appeals FAA has given me date and time of the hearing and requested me to be present at that time. Though optional on my part, I have been attending them. I have found that most of the FAA have fixed day of hearing every week as I have seen number of appellants on that day. Once I was also informed on my mobile by FAA's office about of postpone of hearing as the FAA will be out of station on that day.
But I find wastage of time to attend such hearing where the PIO has not responded and there is nothing to argue on such applications. Last week I had to write a hard letter to FAA that he should not waste my time to invite me on such hearing. Instead of fixing a date of hearing he should have directed the PIO to reply my application which could save his as well as my time.
Of course in case of a appeal where the answer of PIO is incomplete or unsatisfactory it become necessary for us to attend such hearing as we have to argue and convince the PIO on our points. Appeal has no meaning unless both the parties are heard in which the FAA should act as judge and pass the correct judgments based on the arguments.
in fact, this is one strange aspect of rti act that the AA is also called for presence at the second appeal. i've never dealt with any other act where teh first appellate authority is also summoned for the hearing in second appeal.
similarly, i havent come across any other act under which the first appellate authority can be penalised for his judgement in good faith.
Ervery aspect of the RTI Act is strange and unique in every respect. The most noble part of it is its cityzen or public-friendliness. The aspect of Good faith ie., "Section 21: Protection of action taken taken in Good Faith" is one of the most vulnerable sections of the act which could be misused by a fertile Advocate to shield a guilty PIO or FAA. Thank God no one seems attempted it so far.