Friday, November 5, 2010

If penalised, approach courts in personal capacity, HC tells PIOs

If penalised, approach courts in personal capacity, HC tells PIOs


Posted: Thu Nov 04 2010, 03:35 hrs

Chandigarh: Creating a precedent, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that if the public information officer (PIO) of a department has been penalised by a State Information Commission on account of withholding information, the officer cannot appeal against the order through the state. The court has held that the PIO will have to approach the court in personal capacity.

In one such instance, the High Court has directed the Punjab government to withdraw a petition filed by it on behalf of K B S Sidhu, the then PIO of health department who had challenged a penalty imposed on him by the Punjab State Information Commission. A fine of Rs 25,000 was slapped on Sidhu in 2007 for not supplying information.

Ludhiana-based social activist Kuldip Singh Khaira had sought information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from the health department with regard to rules drafted by its electro-homoeopathy wing. 

For not supplying information within the stipulated period, the State Information Commission had slapped a penalty of Rs 25,000 on Sidhu, who challenged it before the High Court. 

During the resumed hearing, a single bench of the High Court refused to entertain the petition since the appeal against the penalty was filed by the state. During the hearing last week, Advocate A P S Shergill, counsel for Khaira, raised the issue that a PIO could not appeal against an order through the state and should rather come in personal capacity. 

Shergill said the state machinery could not be put to use by a PIO for a penalty or strictures passed against him on account of dereliction of duty. 

Finding merit in the contention, the High Court asked the Punjab government to withdraw the petition. Sidhu has been given the liberty to file a fresh petition in personal capacity. 


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The RTI Act was passed by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) on 11 May 2005, by the Raj Sabha (Upper House) on 12 May 2005 and received Presidential assent on 15 June 2005. Parts of the Act came into force upon Presidential assent, but the Act came fully into force on 12 October 2005, 120 days after Presidential assent.

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