In a serious blow to transparency regime in the country, the Madras High Court has said RTI applicants must give reasons for seeking information as it gave relief to its Registry from disclosing file notings on a complaint against a chief metropolitan magistrate.
A division bench comprising justices N Paul Vasanthakumar and K Ravichandrababu said an applicant must disclose the object for which information is sought and also satisfy that such object has a legal backing, a decision which may have far reaching implications on getting information under the RTI Act and which was decried by legal experts and activists.
“If informations (sic) are to be furnished to a person, who does not have any reason or object behind seeking such informations, in our considered view, the intention of the Legislature is not to the effect that such informations are to be given like pamphlets to any person unmindful of the object behind seeking such information,” the bench said.
However, the Legislature while passing the RTI Act has specially incorporated Section 6(2) which says an applicant making request for information “shall not” be required to give any reason for requesting the information.
The Madras High Court order does not mention Section 6(2) of the Right to Information Act.
“We should not be mistaken as if we are saying something against the intention of the Legislature. What we want to emphasise is that a Legislation, more particularly, the one on hand, must achieve the object, viz, concrete and effective functioning of the public authority with transparency and accountability by providing the information which are under the control of such public authorities,” it said.
Terming the order “illegal”, senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan said it is against “letter and spirit” of the Act.
“It’s a self-serving order by the High Court in line with a number of earlier orders of High Courts and Supreme Court virtually preventing administrative transparency of the court,” he said.