Giving a clear signal that no one is above the rule of law, the Delhi High Court Friday quashed an order of the Central Information Commission and said it has limited powers and should adhere to them.
Setting aside CIC’s order to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) about revealing all information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Justice B.D. Ahmed said: “Information is power. In a democracy this power of information which the public authorities possess is to be shared with the people. But at the same time, not every piece of information is to be made public.”
“There is public interest and democratic purpose in dissemination of information on the one hand and the competing private rights and national interests in general non-disclosure on the other.”
The court was hearing an appeal filed by the DDA challenging the CIC order that had summoned the DDA vice-chairman. On his failure to appear before it, a committee was also constituted.
“Commission only has the power to summon and enforce the attendance of a person for the purposes of evidence. Commission does not have the power to direct the presence of the head of a public authority, especially when the concerned officers of such a public authority in the hierarchy under the RTI Act and senior officers have otherwise appeared before the Commission in deference to it,” the court said.
The DDA had denied giving certain information to an applicant with regard to information concerning the modification of the master plan 2021.
The CIC thought it fit to launch a detailed enquiry into the functioning of the DDA in servicing the RTI Act.
“In the present case, the Vice-Chairman, DDA was not summoned for either giving oral evidence or written evidence or to produce any documents or things in his possession. He was directed to be present for other reasons. That power is not there with the CIC. Such a power only exists in courts of plenary jurisdiction. The CIC is not a court and certainly not a body which exercises plenary jurisdiction,” the court said.