Right to Information Act Current Affairs - 2019
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Delivering a separate judgment in the Rafale case, Justice K.M. Joseph has made the following observations:
- The Right to Information Act confers on ordinary citizens the ‘priceless right’ to demand information even in matters affecting national security and relations with a foreign state.
- Justice Joseph’s judgment countered the claim made by the government for privilege over Rafale purchase documents under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), saying it affected national security and relations with France.
- Justice Joseph said the Right to Information (RTI) Act overawes the OSA.
- Under Section 8(2) of the RTI Act, the government cannot refuse information if disclosure in public interest overshadows certain ‘protected interests.’
Justice Joseph in his judgment has stated that through Section 8(2) of the RTI Act, Parliament has appreciated that it may be necessary to pit one interest against another and to compare the relative harm and then decide either to disclose or to decline information. If higher public interest is established, it is the will of Parliament that the greater good should prevail though at the cost of lesser harm being still occasioned.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that the EVM machine is information under the Right to Information Act and directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to respond to appellant who had sought an EVM.
What was the case?
The applicant Rajaak Khan Haider had sought an EVM from the Election Commission. The Election Commission had rejected the application saying the EVMs held by it do not come under the definition of “information”.
The applicant had approached Central Information Commission with the argument that as per Section 2(f) and 2(i) of the RTI Act, the definition of ‘information’ and ‘record’ also includes ‘any model or any sample’ held by a public authority, calling the rejection as wrong.
The Information Commission even though upheld these arguments noted the contention of Election Commission of India that the software installed on these machines is an intellectual property of a third party, the disclosure of which would harm its competitive position.
Section 8(1)(d) exempts information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.
The CIC did not give any view whether it was upholding or rejecting the EC’s position on commercial confidence leaving a grey area
Highlights of the Ruling
EVM can be demanded by an applicant from the Election Commission of India on payment of Rs 10. The Election Commission has to respond to an RTI application seeking the EVM either by providing it or refusing it under exemption clauses in the Act. The verdict of the Election Commission of India can be contested before the CIC, the highest adjudicating authority in RTI matters.