Punjab and Haryana High Court came down heavily on the authorities for passing cryptic and non-speaking orders under the Right to Information Act. Justice Vikas Bahl observed that such vogue orders not only violate the mandate of the RTI Act but also all the Supreme Court and High Court judgments.
In the order, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana High Court bench stated, “This Court has found that in a large number of cases, the authorities including the first Appellate Authority…and the second Appellate Authority…under the Act, have been passing cryptic and non-speaking orders in violation of the judgments passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and various High Courts and also in violation of the mandate of the Act of 2005.”
The judge then went on to detail that the primary and secondary appellate authorities under the RTI Act must distinctly outline the subsequent elements when issuing orders to reveal or withhold information:
- The specific subjects for which the applicant has requested information, as per their application filed under the RTI Act.
- A point-by-point response addressing the information that has been requested.
- A clear determination regarding whether the information related to any of the points has been furnished. If provided, the exact date of its provision should be mentioned.
- If the authorities’ stance is that information cannot be furnished due to any legal constraint under the RTI Act or other justifications, such a standpoint must be documented, accompanied by an explanation of the conclusions drawn from both parties’ submissions.
- Any additional observations that the authority deems pertinent based on the circumstances and facts of the case should be documented.
The High Court bench has issued directions to the Chief Secretaries of Punjab and Haryana and the advisor to the administrator of Chandigarh to circulate the copies of this order to RTI authorities so that they can work accordingly.
The judgment was given when the Court allowed an appeal by one Rajwinder Singh against an order of the State Information Commission (SIC). The High Court has asked the RTI authorities to consider Rajwinder’s RTI appeal again as the earlier order was passed without recording reasons.
The bench stated, “The order should have been self-explanatory and reasons given in the same should not have been rubber stamp reasons. The same has not been done in the present case and the impugned order passed is cryptic and non-speaking.”