New Delhi: Deciding first appeals against RTI replies without hearing the appellant by a public authority is illegal, the Central Information Commission has said in its order against the Law Ministry.
Under the Right to Information Act, an appellant gets a chance to appeal twice against the order of the Central Public Information Officer who receives and answers the application.
The First Appeal is filed before an officer, senior to CPIO, within the department where application is filed. The Second appeal is filed before the Central Information Commission.
It is a common practice that at the First Appeal stage, public authorities do not invite applicants for hearing and decide the case on the basis of appeal filed by them.
The order of Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu may help in curbing the practice of deciding the first appeals without giving a chance to the applicant to explain himself during the hearing.
The case relates to number of RTI applications filed by activist R K Jain from the Law Ministry.
"Passing orders in first appeal without hearing or sending hearing notice is illegal and will render the order invalid. The Commission sets aside the order of First Appellate Authority for violating RTI Act and breach of natural justice by denying the appellant a chance of presenting his case and by raising entirely a new defense which was never claimed," Acharyulu said in the order.
He said, "It deserves action though the concerned officer retired from service and recommends Public Authority to initiate disciplinary action against the concerned FAO for acting totally against the RTI Act in this case".