Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Whether the power of attorney has the right to inspect the file and obtain information ?

CHENNAI: In a landmark order, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has said that the power of attorney (PA), given by anybody, could be used to obtain RTI information.
The order has come on the heels of a petition filed by a Chennai-based RTI activist R Natarajan who was denied information on the ground that there was no specific instruction under the RTI Act for providing information to anyone with a power of attorney.

Natarajan had moved an RTI application using power of attorney to obtain information regarding status of his relative’s application to the regional passport office (Chennai) seeking a duplicate passport as it was delayed. The CIC order allowing people to seek RTI information using power of attorney was an eye-opener for many government offices, which continuously dodge RTI applicants on one or another ground to evade information, Natarajan told Express.

The order eventually became a legal permission for RTI activists to seek information and clearly paved way for everyone to seek details from different government agencies, Natarajan added. It all started when the regional passport officer (Chennai) inordinately delayed issuing a duplicate passport applied under Tatkal scheme to his relative, working and living in the UK.

“In Tatkal scheme, passport has to be delivered within three days, but in my relative’s case, the RPO took 22 days and when I questioned the delay through numerous letters, the then RPO Sumathi Ravichandran not only went on character assassination against me but also questioned how I sought the information using power of attorney,” Natarajan said.

The denial of information at RPO forced Natarajan to file a petition with the CIC to ascertain whether the power of attorney has the right to inspect the file and obtain information. After examining the documents submitted by Natarajan during the hearing, CIC overruled Sumathi’s contention.

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