Supreme Court Directs All High Courts To Have Online Portal For Filing RTI Applications
A Bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha and Justice JB Pardiwala has directed all the High Courts and District Judiciary under the High Court's administrative control to set up an RTI Online Portal within 3 months from today.
The Supreme Court was hearing a public interest litigation seeking an online RTI Portal in all the High Courts of the country. The PIL sought directions to the Registrar General of all the High Courts to establish a Right to the Information website for their respective High Courts and their subordinate Courts to enable the citizen to file online applications.
The Petitioner Kishan Chand Jain appearing in person apprised the Court that "some of the High Courts are in process of making there may be technical glitches.". He further submitted that "none of the states has done it for subordinate Courts. So High Courts need to be given some orders".
The CJI asked the Counsel appearing for the Respondents, "why don't you do it for High Courts, we have done it for the Supreme Court of India". The Counsel appearing for the State of Madhya Pradesh clarified that "the state has already done it and District Courts are in the process".
Appearing for Karnataka High Court Senior Advocate GV Chandrashekar submitted that a "common portal for all High Courts will be a problem".
The Bench was informed that the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, the High Court of Delhi and the High Court of Orissa have already set up websites for the purpose. The High Court of Karnataka utilizes the web portal set up by the state government.
Upon considering the submissions made, CJI dictated the Court's order- "the petitioner invokes the jurisdiction of this court seeking directions to all Registrar General's of High Courts to establish and operationalise RTI Portals for High Courts and District Judiciary under the administrative control of the High Court. This will enable people to file RTI and navigate appeals."
The Court further said in its order that "the petitioner has alleged that Union Government has already established RTI Portal in terms of which information can be sought with each ministry and department. Some State governments are stated to have operationalised RTI state portals. The person seeking information from High Courts or any Court forming part of the District Judiciary has to make physical applications in absence of online portal"
The Chief Justice, referring to the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, stated that "the Chief justice of every High Court has to be a competent authority under Section 2(e) and has to power to make rules under Section 28 of the 2005 Act." The Court further referred to Section 6(1) of the 2005 Act which provides an option for electronic filing.
Emphasizing that online facilities will considerably facilitate the fulfilment of the objective of RTI, the Court directed the "High Courts to set up Online RTI Portal within the period of 3 months of this order". Directing the Registrar General of the Supreme Court to remit copies of this order to the Registrar General of all the High Courts to seek administrative direction from Chief Justices of High Courts.
With respect to the District Judiciary, the Supreme Court directed that the District Judiciary which is under the administration of High Courts, the Registrar General of the High Courts should take directions from the Chief Justices for the same and set up the RTI Online portal for District Judiciary within 3 months of the order. The direction was also issued to formulate adequate rules to facilitate the supply of information from the web portal.
The Court directed that the National Informatics Centre (NIC) should provide all logistical and technical assistance.
The plea before the Court was filed by NGO, Pravasi Legal Cell and Kishan Chand Jain. As per the petitions, the lack of online filing facilities of RTI applications causes many issues including NRIs having to file physically the applications for any information they required from governments.
As per the petition– "The right to Information Act provides a legal mechanism to enforce and implement the citizen's right to information guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The present system of submitting RTI applications and the corresponding reply from the concerned information officer in physical form takes more time which in turn reduces the efficiency of the entire RTI mechanism thus defeating the very purpose of the legislation."
In November last year, the Supreme Court launched its online portal for Filing RTI applications in relation to the Court. Earlier, the Supreme Court had dismissed a petition seeking directions to make the Court available on RTI Online Portal.