India

Stretching Beyond Authority – Curious Case of Information Commissioners

In India, people in power often try to extend influence others beyond their limits. Same thing sometimes happen in government bodies or institutions. Official authority may go something much beyond his legal demarcation. A post ‘Information Commission – Issuing Contempt Notice without Being a Court?’ by Amitabh Thakur explore the issue. — Editor

Many a times we hear about an official authority doing something much beyond his legal authorities which would prima-facie be considered illegal. Police department is generally considered one of the major defaulters in this regards. Recently we saw something in the UP State Information Commission which is again illegal, as per our legal understanding.

As far as we know, the Commission is not a court, at max it is a quasi-judicial body. Courts have many such rights as power to review, power of contempt of court etc. which these quasi-judicial authorities do not have. The Supreme Court has now settled this issue by saying again and again in its decisions that courts and quasi-judicial authorities cannot be placed on the same legal footing.

Recently the Supreme Court in its review order in Union of India vs. Namit Sharma said that the Information Commission does not decide a dispute between two or more parties concerning their legal rights other than their right to get information in possession of a public authority. This function obviously is not a judicial function, but an administrative function conferred by the Act on the Information Commissions. Information Commission, therefore, while deciding this matter does not really perform a judicial function, but performs an administrative function in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

Despite this CIC Ranjit Singh Pankaj and other Information Commissions are undertaking contempt proceedings without any legal rights.

We came to know of this when we were presented three cases related with RTI activists Mangat Singh Tyagi, who was recently murdered and Ashok Kumar Goyal, recently arrested for allegedly creating ruckus in the Commission, where Sri Pankaj issued notice under section 345 CrPC for alleged offence under section 228 IPC.

Section 345 CrPC empowers a Civil, Criminal or Revenue Court to cause the offender of section 228 IPC and other such offences to be detained in custody and may, at any time before the rising of the Court on the same day, take cognizance of the offence and, after giving the offender a reasonable opportunity of showing cause sentence the offender to Rs 200 fine or 1 month imprisonment. But as stated above, the Information Commission is not a court in any manner, as very clearly stated by the Supreme Court.

Hence the act of initiate contempt proceedings under section 345 CrPC seems to be prima-facie incorrect and hence I with wife Nutan have written to Governor of UP to enquire into our facts and to restrict the Information Commissioners from acting beyond their authority, if these are found correct.

Let all public authorities kindly adhere to the laws of the land for avoiding judicial chaos.

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