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INFORMATION COMMISSIONERS FEEL ‘INCREASINGLY TARGETED’ CIC to Defend Commissioners Slapped with Cases for Orders

December 04, 2018 06:56 AM

courtesy  ET DEC 4

CIC to Defend Commissioners Slapped with Cases for Orders
CIC is a quasi-judicial authority & commissioners can’t be made party to cases just like courts can’t be made party in a case for its order: Ex-CIC

New Delhi:

The Central Information Commission has decided to fight court cases against serving and retired commissioners after concerns they were being personally targeted for orders even after retirement. The decision was taken at the full meeting of the CIC on November 20. At the meeting, information commissioners expressed concern that they were ‘increasingly targeted’.

“Commissioners are being made party in court cases or have defamation cases slapped against them even after retirement. This is legally untenable but needs to be fought by the Commission,” an information commissioner said at the meeting.

“The Commission shall defend any case filed against a commissioner or ex-commissioners,” the meeting decided. Incidentally, a day after the decision was taken, commissioners Yashovardhan Azad, M Sridhar Acharyulu and Amitava Bhattacharya retired and chief RK Mathur, four days later.

When contacted, a CIC spokesperson told ET, “We do not know the exact number of cases against information commissioners or where CIC has been made a party. But the number is increasing. In all such cases, we seek that these were orders given by adjudicating authorities and are not administrative orders so commission or commissioners cannot be made a party.” A source indicated there are about 1,700 cases.

Appellants have filed personal cases against information commissioners in high courts for decisions taken in their official capacity, including defamation cases. Acharyulu has been personally named in a case filed by the Gujarat University against his direction for disclosure of the degree of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Another case in point is that of former information commissioner MM Ansari, who has been fighting a defamation case for years. Ansari had in an order as information commissioner noted that appellant MK Tyagi, an employee of Indian Oil Corporation who had filed multiple RTI notices against it had an inquiry against him, as IOC had pointed out. IOC alleged Tyagi was trying to use RTI to harass it. “I noted this observation in my order. Since then, Tyagi started hounding me. During a TV debate, he was in the audience and asked a question on a function I attended. I simply mentioned the case against him to make him understand. He filed a defamation case against me.” Ansari has been attending case hearings every 3-4 months at a Saket court ever since.

In another case, after an information commissioner’s order led to termination of services of an Air India official who enjoyed reservation benefits based on a fake caste certificate, he filed RTIs in all departments where the commissioner had served to collect details on study tours, guest houses used and even on his resume to dig out some information of wrong doing out. However, no case was filed.

A former CIC, who did not wish to be identified, told ET, “The decision is stating the law. CIC is a quasi-judicial authority and commissioners or CIC cannot be made party to cases. It is like Supreme Court making Delhi high court a party in a case where it has passed an order. That does not happen. But since it is happening now, we are putting this down

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