Thursday, January 13, 2011

High Court upholds single judge's order on RTI application

The Madras High Court has upheld the order of a single Judge that a piece of information sought by an applicant under the RTI Act from the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC) relating to recruitment of Assistant Engineers (Civil) in the Public Works Department should be furnished to him.The First Bench, comprising Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam, passed the judgment on an appeal by the TNPSC challenging the single Judge's order.

Originally, K. Alagirswami had sought information from the TNPSC relating to the recruitment of Assistant Engineers (Civil) in PWD in the examination held in 1999. The TNPSC gave a reply in June 2008. Not satisfied, the applicant moved the appellate authority, which rejected his request.

He preferred a second appeal before the Tamil Nadu Information Commission (TNIC), which directed the TNPSC to furnish the information within three days. The TNPSC filed a writ petition challenging the TNIC's order. A single Judge dismissed the petition in January last year. Aggrieved, the present appeal was preferred.
The Bench said the information sought by the applicant pertained to an examination that was conducted less than 20 years before the date of the application seeking information. In terms of Section 8 (3) of the RTI Act, the TNPSC was bound to furnish the information. Therefore, the question of invoking the theory of laches (delay) in the case on hand did not arise.
The Judges said the information sought pertained to the selection of Assistant Engineers. In the selection process, the applicant also had participated. In no manner could it be stated that the information sought was a matter of “commercial confidence,” “trade secret” or “intellectual property,” and if disclosed would harm the competitive position of a third party. The applicant's complaint was that a person who had secured a lesser mark had had an unfair advantage by being placed higher in the merit/select list and he was not aware of the same, since the TNPSC bulletin during the relevant time did not contain the candidates' marks.
The TNIC had rightly ordered that the information should be given and the TNPSC's stand was not tenable. This finding was also confirmed by the single Judge. He was perfectly right in holding that the information sought for should be furnished, the Bench said.

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