Hyderabad: Two PILs have been filed before the Telangana High Court challenging the order of the Chief Secretary making officials to secure approval of heads of departments or secretaries concerned before furnishing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
Petitioners Ganji Srinivasa Rao and Rapolu Bhaskar, RTI activists, said in the PILs that the action of the Chief Secretary in issuing the circular was nothing but overriding the provisions of the RTI Act which was enacted by Parliament and which every public authority was bound to follow.
The petitioners said that the RTI Act had been enacted to bring transparency in administration, which included decision making and expenditure of public money. But, the Telangana government's decision in directing the public information officers (PIOs) to get approval of heads of departments or secretaries before providing information sought by applicants, may cause unnecessary hindrances in providing information.
It was nothing but trying to stop the PIOs from issuing information and the Chief Secretary, without having any locus-standi and authority, had issued the said circular which was highly illegal, arbitrary, unconstitutional, violation of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India, and also violation of provisions of RTI and also in violation of Principles of Natural Justice, they said.
Quoting the provisions of Sec.6 (1) of RTI Act, which clearly mandates the PIOs that they have to issue the information to the applicants within a period of 30 days, the petitioners said there was no need to take permissions from heads of the concerned departments.
The Chief Secretary had no power to create a new non statutory authority/procedure other than mandatory procedure entrusted on the state PIOs, appellate authority and state information commissioner under RTI, they said and added that the action of the Chief Secretary would lead to delay in furnishing information. “It is like giving arbitrary powers to the state PIOs to delay information sought. Moreover, the said circular has no time period for getting clearance from head of the departments which is arbitrary in nature and in contradictory to the mandatory time frame and procedure to furnish information to the applicant under the RTI,” the petitioners mentioned.