Patna High Court restores the right of second appeal under RTI law
In a decision that would bring relief to hundreds of information seekers in Bihar, the Patna High Court has restored the right of second appeal under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. This gives an applicant the right to seek information even if his or her appeal under RTI has been rejected, or complete information has not been given in the first instance.
The Bihar State Information Commission had barred RTI activists from filing second appeal. A provision in the state information rules bars information seekers from filing second appeal. The high court held that this provision does not conform to the RTI Act.
The court gave the verdict last week while disposing of a petition filed by activist Shiv Prakash Rai, and declared Section 6(2) of Bihar Right to Information Rule ultra vires. It has ordered the state government should immediately amend the state’s RTI Rules of 2006 in accordance with Section 19(3) of RTI Act of 2005.
The state rule was contrary to the RTI Act of 2005. Section 19(3) of the main Act states: “A second appeal against the decision under sub-section (1) shall lie within ninety days from the date on which the decision should have been made.”
The state rule says that an RTI applicant should get an order from the first appellant authority before filing the second appeal in case necessary information has not been provided to the appellant in the first reply. But the Act does not have any such condition.
The right for second appeal was denied to the RTI activists by former chief state information commissioner, AK Choudhary. However, an order of the former information chief was reversed by the present chief state information commissioner, R J M Pillai. But the necessary changes were not made in the state rules.
Activists say since no amendment was made to the rule, thousands of second appeals under RTI were rejected. “RTI applicants who were not satisfied by the answers given in the first appeal found that they are not eligible for second appeal,” Rai said.
The high court has ordered that necessary amendment be made in the state rule within 90 days of the order.