A Lit­tle Con­fu­sion: RTI vis-à-vis CPA

Consumer Voice - - Legal Matters -

So, do you be­come a con­sumer when you file an RTI? While sim­ple logic may tell you that since you are pay­ing (RTI fee) for a ser­vice (seek­ing in­for­ma­tion), you au­to­mat­i­cally be­come a con­sumer and may also chal­lenge any de­fi­ciency in ser­vice. The re­la­tion­ship in both the acts is not quite so di­rect, though. A few de­ci­sions in the re­cent past have not been as sim­ple and have ended up in an ar­guable and some­times con­tro­ver­sial decision.

Favourable De­ci­sions

In Jan­uary this year, in a first-of-its-kind decision in the state, Ben­galuru Dis­trict Con­sumer Dis­putes Re­dres­sal Fo­rum held that the pro­vi­sions of the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act could be in­voked when­ever there was a “de­fi­ciency by the pub­lic au­thor­i­ties in pro­vid­ing ser­vices” un­der the RTI Act.

The fo­rum ruled that un­der the Act a pub­lic au­thor­ity was re­quired to pro­vide cer­tain ser­vices, and when the au­thor­ity failed to do so, it amounted to ‘ de­fi­ciency of ser­vice’ and for such lapses the pro­vi­sions of the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act were ap­pli­ca­ble.

The case

A Bench com­pris­ing fo­rum pres­i­dent T Ra­jashekara­iah and mem­ber Sub­hashini had passed an or­der on 23 Jan­uary 2014 on a com­plaint by K Dhanan­jay, an en­gi­neer work­ing with the In­dian In­sti­tute of As­tro­physics (IIA), Ko­ra­man­gala, Ben­galuru, against the di­rec­tor of the in­sti­tute.

The IIA had col­lected Rs 286 and Rs 314 on two oc­ca­sions in 2010–11 for pro­vid­ing cer­tain doc­u­ments after the Cen­tral In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sion (CIC) di­rected it to sup­ply in­for­ma­tion to Dhanan­jay when he com­plained that the in­sti­tute failed to pro­vide cer­tain doc­u­ments un­der the RTI Act. The in­sti­tute sup­plied the doc­u­ments after the 30-day dead­line lapsed.

The fo­rum found that un­der Sec­tion 7 of the RTI Act, pub­lic au­thor­i­ties would have to sup­ply in­for­ma­tion/doc­u­ments for free if the in­for­ma­tion sought was sup­plied after the 30-day dead­line. Fol­low­ing this, the fo­rum held that the ac­tion of the in­sti­tute in col­lect­ing fees was ‘il­le­gal’ and hence amounted to ‘ de­fi­ciency of ser­vice’, and di­rected the in­sti­tute to re­fund the Rs 600 col­lected as fee to the com­plainant along with Rs 900 as the cost of lit­i­ga­tion.

Another case

In a sim­i­lar or­der passed in 2013, the Er­naku­lam Con­sumer Dis­putes Re­dres­sal Fo­rum had said that when in­for­ma­tion was de­nied to an RTI ap­pli­cant, it would be con­sid­ered as de­fi­ciency in ser­vice and the ap­pli­cant would then be en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion un­der the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act.

The di­rec­tive came on a pe­ti­tion filed by DB Binu, gen­eral sec­re­tary, Hu­man Rights De­fence Fo­rum. He had filed an RTI ap­pli­ca­tion at Kochi Cor­po­ra­tion

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