Mobile, camera banned during info panel hearing

Tamil Nadu state information commission has started issuing summons regarding matter

Chennai: After refusing to hear an appeal from a complainant for not switching off his cellphone, Tamil Nadu state information commission has started issuing summons with a note that cellphone and camera would not be allowed inside the enquiry hall. “I have received summons from the commission on June 16 to appear for a hearing with a note that cellphone, camera are not allowed inside the enquiry hall. It is very strange. The last time I appeared for a hearing was on May 15.

Then, there was no such mention in the summons,” said RTI activist V. Gopalakrishnan. He said the summons did not mention the rule under which they had banned cellphone and camera. The commission’s move has come in the wake of the April 27 incident when state information commissioner Christopher Nelson refused to hear petitioner and activist Siva Elango for not switching off his mobile. “The ban on cellphone and camera are totally illegal. There is no mention in the RTI Act and rules about such restrictions,” Mr Elango told DC.

Noting that there was no law banning recording proceedings of the court, he said there was nothing wrong in videographing or recording the proceedings of the commission as the people were entitled to know what transpires inside the hall. He said the ban goes against the real intention of the introduction of the RTI Act - ensuring transparency. Commission sources said the ban was always there. “Under section 83 of the RTI Act, the commission enjoys the power of the civil court while inquiring a matter.

Videography or recording is not allowed in the court hall. We are following the same rules,” sources said, adding that the commission started insisting on not allowing cellphone and camera in the summons after some activists recorded and photographed the proceedings and publicised it. Mr Gopalakrishnan said even in court, the cellphone is not completely banned. “One can take the cellphone inside the court but it should be kept in silent mode,” he said, wondering where the petitioner can leave the mobile or camera when they appear for the hearing.

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