The Central Information Commission (CIC), a body constituted under the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005 (the Act), has recently passed an order dated 18.06.2018 and declared that in the event of death of a complainant/appellant, the CIC would continue to examine the pending RTI applications as a complaint/appeal, as the case may be and further order the concerned department(s) to suo moto publish the decision on its website. By virtue of Section 18 of the Act, CIC has to inquire into complaints against refusal of access to information under the Act, incomplete or false information provided under the Act, to impose penalties, etc.
The order dated 18.06.2018 was passed after it was observed that there were series of mysterious deaths of whistle blowers and RTI activists who had filed applications/appeals under RTI.
Earlier, Regulation 24 of the CIC (Management) Regulations 2007 provided for abatement of pending proceedings before CIC, in case of death of the complainant or appellant. But the Delhi High Court in Delhi Development Authority v. Central Information Commission and Another 2010 SCC OnLine Del 2058 quashed the CIC (Management) Regulations 2007 on the grounds of being ultra vires to the RTI Act.
Further CIC has reportedly ruled that the account details of a deceased could not be denied to legal heirs on the grounds of personal information. In this case a son had sought for information from the Department of Posts about the policies taken by his deceased father. The CIC ruled that a son, being a class I legal heir of a deceased male person under the Hindu Succession Act, is entitled to know about the policies of his deceased father. Thus, CIC held that the Department of Posts was wrong in not furnishing the information to the Applicant and further, imposed penalty of a sum of Rs. 25,000 on the concerned officer.
This may be an encouraging step towards transparency and may also help to curb attacks on RTI activists and whistleblowers.
Senior Legal Associate
Faculty of Law, ICFAI Foundation for Higher Education (IFHE), Hyderabad
The Indian Lawyer