On the request of the Karnataka Information Commissioner (KIC), Bangalore, the Registrar of Karnataka State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (KSCDRC), Bangalore, is learnt to have sent a circular to all the District Forums in the state not to entertain any complaints or appeals against public information officers (PIOs) under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
This is being viewed by consumer activists in Mysore as ‘controversial’ and ‘contrary’ to the decision of the apex consumer body, the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission (NCDRC). In RP No. 1975/05 S P Thirumala Rao vs Mysore City Corporation, the NCDRC has held that an aggrieved RTI applicant is a “consumer” and non-supply of information is “deficiency in service”.
While passing an order on a petition, K Venugopal vs Tahsildar and PIO, Bellary Taluk, Bellary district (KIC 12026 PTN 2011), Karnataka Information Commissioner J S Virupakshaiah directed the commission’s under secretary to send “a copy of this order to the president, District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, Bellary, with a request not to hear cases under RTI Act in future”.
The order dated July 17, 2012, had further directed: “A copy of this order may be sent to the Chairman, Karnataka Consumers Redressal Forum, Basava Bhavan, Palace Road, Bangalore, with a request to direct all the Consumers Forums in the state not to entertain Appeals/Complaints filed under the RTI Act.” Following this, the State Commission Registrar is said to have sent the circular to all the district forums in the state on August 29, 2012, asking them not to entertain complaints or appeals against PIOs under RTI Act.
Stating that the said direction had raised a series of points of law, Karnataka Consumers’ Forum President S P Thirumala Rao in a letter appealed to the KSCDRC President to recall the August 29, 2012, circular immediately. In a separate letter, the consumer activist appealed to the NCDRC president to direct the KSCDRC president to “immediately withdraw the controversial circular”.
“It is felt that the KSCDRC president, who is a High Court judge, has failed to assert his power as a superior judicial officer in the hierarchy of courts and has succumbed to the directions issued by an officer lower in hierarchy which affected the interests of a large number of consumers, whose complaints against the PIOs are pending before various district consumer fora in the State, filed on the basis of principles of law as laid down by the NCDRC in RP N. 1975/05 dated 28.05.2009,” Rao said in the letter.
In his letter to NCDRC President, he wrote, “On the subject matter of whether an pplicant under RTI Act is a consumer or not, the NCDRC in its 28.05.2009 order has held that the applicant is a “consumer” and non-supply of information is a deficiency in service. The order has become final since no appeal was filed before the Supreme Court.”
Speaking to Business Standard, Rao said some district fora in the State had stopped entertaining complaints from affected consumers against PIOs in view of the KSCDRC direction to them.