Sunday, January 25, 2009

Profile: Subhash Chandra Agrawal

Subhash Chandra Agrawal is an ordinary man with extraordinary determination. His RTI appeal to the CIC resulted in the latter's direction to the CPIO, Supreme Court, to share the information sought by him on the submission of details of assets held by the Supreme Court Judges. His latest appeal has resulted in another landmark decision from the CIC directing the Department of Justice, Government of India, to share information relating to the appointment of Chief Justice Bhalla of Himachal Pradaesh High Court. The latest decision cites Agrawal's original RTI application which recalls Paragraph 81 of the S.P.Gupta Judgment of the Supreme Court in its support to show that there is no immunity against disclosure of documents relating to appointment or non-appointment of a Judge.

In response to my request to share with us the highlight of his RTI saga, he wrote as follows:

"Delhi High Court is designated court to entertain writs against decisions of Central Information Commission. Counsels for public-authorities usually obtain ex-party stay-orders against CIC verdicts and thereafter continue getting adjournments after adjournments in our adjournment-based judicial system, thus harming the very cause of implementation of ‘Right-To-Information Act’ for providing a petitioner required information in a time-bound period. Otherwise also, many-a-times, cases against CIC verdicts do not come for hearing because of over-stretch of earlier cases listed for hearing on that day.

"Necessary reforms are utmost necessary at Delhi High Court to overcome this situation at a time when RTI Act is getting momentum fast. Firstly since CIC verdicts provide sufficient time to public-authorities for implanting CIC order, RTI petitioners should be served notice first avoiding any ex-party stay-orders against CIC verdicts. Interestingly even caveats are not entertained from RTI petitioners in probability of public-authority filing a writ at the Court!

"Secondly, a particular day in the month say first Monday of every month may be fixed at Delhi High Court when the concerned bench may hear writs only against CIC verdicts in a manner that next adjournment in any such case may not be more than a month. Department of Justice obtained an ex-party stay-order against CIC verdict on one of my RTI petitions in April 2007, and the case has not moved further even an inch in last 21 months with 12 adjournments! Central Information commission should be taken as role-model where requests for adjournments from public-authorities are usually not entertained till petitioner agrees."

CIC's website carries one of his articles here. Two more recent landmark decisions from the CIC on the basis of his RTI applications can be read here and here.

Update:Dr.Rajeev Dhavan's article 'What is the hitch your honour?' can be read here, as carried in Mail Today on Jan.26. Pratab Bhanu Mehta's for the judges' sakes was carried in IE Jan.27.
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