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The information to be accessed/certified copies on the judicial side to be obtained through the me

Commissioner of Income Tax, Udaipur V. M/s. Chetak Enterprises Pvt. Ltd, CIVIL APPEAL NO. 1764 OF 2010.

“The ITAT, as well as, the High Court have justly affirmed the view taken by the first appellate authority, holding that the respondent/assessee ­Company qualified for the deduction under Section 80­IA being an enterprise carrying on the stated business pertaining to infrastructure facility and owned by a Company registered in India on the basis of the agreement executed with the State Government to which the respondent/assessee ­Company has succeeded in law after conversion of the partnership firm into a company.”

Brief facts of the case are as follows; An RTI application dated 05.04.2010 was filed by respondent No.2 seeking information pertaining to the following cases – Civil Application No.5517 of 2003 and Civil Application No.8072 of 1989 along with all relevant documents and certified copies. In reply, by letter dated 29.04.2010, Public Information Officer, Gujarat High Court informed respondent No.2 that for obtaining required copies, he should make an application personally or through his advocate on affixing court fees stamp of Rs.3/- with requisite fee to the “Deputy Registrar”. It was further stated that as respondent No.2 is not a party to the said proceedings, as per Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993, his application should be accompanied by an affidavit stating the grounds for which the certified copies are required and on making such application, he will be supplied the certified copies of the documents as per Rules 149 to 154 of the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993.

Respondent being the disturbed party preferred Appeal No.84 of 2010 before the Appellate Authority-Registrar Administration under Section 19 of the Right to Information Act. The appeal was dismissed vide order dated 04.08.2010 on the ground that for obtaining certified copies, the alternative efficacious remedy is already available under the Gujarat High Court Rules, 1993 and that under the provisions of RTI Act, no certified copies can be provided.

Later, he filed the Second Appeal before the Appellant-Chief Information Commissioner and notice was sent to respondent No.1. Respondent No.1-High Court filed its response repeating the position that there are provisions under Rules 149 to 154 of the Gujarat High Court Rules for anybody who wants to obtain the certified copies as per which, application/affidavit should be filed stating the grounds for which the documents are required and with requisite court fee stamps.

Respondent No.1 stated that despite the letter dated 02.07.2010 by the Deputy Registrar Decree Department, Gujarat High Court to respondent No.2 informing him of the procedure for getting certified copies, respondent No.2 has not made application as per the rules of the High Court and that the Public Information Officer cannot be compelled to breach the High Court Rules and hence, the appeal filed before the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) is liable to be dismissed.

The appellant-Chief Information Commissioner Relying upon Sections 6(2) and 2 of the RTI Act, vide its order dated 04.04.2013 directed Public Information Officer of the Gujarat High Court to provide the information sought by respondent No.2 within twenty days.

The dispute cropped up after the applicant was told that he would have to apply for the documents sought for under the Gujarat High Court rules. Successive challenges to the High Court’s refusal to grant these documents under the RTI eventually culminated in the Chief Information Commissioner ruling in the applicant’s favour.

However, a Division Bench of the High Court eventually set aside the Commissioner’s decision, holding that when a particular field is governed by the rules which are not declared ultra-vires, then there is no question of applying the fresh rules and makes the situation confusing.

This High Court ruling prompted an appeal before the Supreme Court, which asked Additional Solicitor General Atmaram NS Nadkarni to appear as amicus curiae.

The Supreme Court has concluded that:

Rule 151 of the Gujarat High Court Rules stipulating a third party to have access to the information/obtaining the certified copies of the documents or orders requires to file an application/affidavit stating the reasons for seeking the information, is not inconsistent with the provisions of the RTI Act; but merely lays down a different procedure as the practice or payment of fees, etc. for obtaining information. In the absence of inherent inconsistency between the provisions of the RTI Act and other law, overriding effect of RTI Act would not apply. The information to be accessed/certified copies on the judicial side to be obtained through the mechanism provided under the High Court Rules, the provisions of the RTI Act shall not be resorted to.

In the light of aforesaid reasonings, the impugned order dated 13.03.2014 passed by the High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad in Letters Patent Appeal No.1348 of 2013 is confirmed and these appeals are dismissed. We place on record the valuable assistance rendered by Mr. Atmaram N.S. Nadkarni as amicus.

– Vishal Varma

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