Saturday, December 05, 2009

Wajahat Habibullah to complete term as CIC

The Chief Information Commissioner of India Wajahat Habibullah has consented to withdraw his resignation from the office to the President of India. Wajahat Habibullah, who had resigned as the Chief Information Commissioner of India, on 20th Oct 2009 was supposed to take up his new assignment as the watchdog to the Right To Information in Jammu and Kashmir on Oct 26.

According to informed sources the development was consequent to the criminal notice issued today by the Supreme Court of India in a contempt of court motion filed against Shri Habibullah by the Solicitor General of India citing 2 recent decisions of the Central Information Commission ordering the court's Public Information Officer to disclose cerrtain information pertaining to the recent appointment of some judges of the court. If Habibullah had taken up his new assignment in J&K he would have had to defend the case in his personal capacity.
Complete Article
Moral: CIC/IC should allow publication on CIC website only those decisions which are in favour of Government.
What contempt? In fact, and for a change, these are the rare orders which the CCIC had issued correctly. As far as the RTI Act is concerned, he is the last word on it and it is the courts which are abusing their authority and entertaining all sorts of petitons against the decisions of the information commissioners. Sec 21, 22 and 23 of the RTI Act are unambiguous. They state that 'No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done under this Act or any rule made thereunder.', 'The provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923, and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act.' and 'No court shall entertain any suit, application or other proceeding in respect of any order made under this Act and no such order shall be called in question otherwise than by way of an appeal under this Act.'

The more valid reason is that an RTI activist in J&K has challenged his appointment as CIC, J&K on the ground that a person who is NOT entitled to get any information under their Act, cannot obviously be appointed as an information commissioner there. Now this is another interesting case. The J&K RTI Act, 2009 entitles only permanent residents of J&K to access the information there. That is citizens of India in other states cannot seek any info about public authorities in J&K! Now our RTI Act, 2005 applies to the whole of India except J&K. But whether that means NO citizen of India in J&K can access info about the public authorities here is not clear.  
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