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RTI Act Cannot Be Invoked When Alternate Remedies Available

Madurai Bench of the High Court of Madras in S.Robinson Vs 1.Tamil Nadu State Information Commission has held that the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 cannot be invoked at the first instance, if an effective alternative remedy is available to obtain such information.

“Although the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner has elaborately made his submission and taken this Court through the Scheme of RTI Act, particularly, Sections 4, 8 and 22 of the RTI Act, I am unable to persuade myself that RTI Act can be invoked for all purposes regardless of the fact that there is existence of alternative effective mechanism provided under the respective departments for seeking information. If such recourse is encouraged and entertained it will destroy the very frame work of the respective mechanism which provides for furnishing information under the respective department,” Justice V. Parthiban observed.

The Court was hearing a Petition filed by Mr. S. Robinson, challenging an order passed by the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission in February, 2014, wherein it had refused to direct a Sub-Registrar at Tiruchendur to furnish information regarding registration of two sale deeds. The Commission had directed him to access the information by following the rules and regulations applicable to the Registration Department, and the procedures devised by it.

Mr. Robinson had now challenged the stand taken by the Commission, and had contended that information sought under the Act cannot be refused unless the same falls under Section 8 of the RTI Act, which exhaustively provides exemptions from disclosure of information. He had further contended that the RTI Act has an overriding effect over other laws.

The Commission, on the other hand, had relied on an earlier decision of the Court in the case of Registrar General, High Court of Madras v. K.U. Rajasekar, wherein a Division Bench of the High Court had ruled against the Petitioner, who had sought certain information from the Information Commissioner even though such information was covered under the High Court Appellate Side Rules, 1965.

The Court accepted such contentions and refused to interfere with the Commission’s reasoning, observing, “The framers of the Act and the object behind the Act would not have envisaged that any information to be sought can be made available only under the RTI Act and not at all through other Acts. Such an interpretation would not advance the letter and spirit of the RTI Act.”

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