Sunday, February 20, 2011

[HumJanenge] Progress of Orissa Information Commission's defamation case against RTI Activists

Progress of Orissa Information Commission's Defamation Case against RTI activists- PRESS RELEASE Dated 19th February 2011

Mr. Tarun Kanti Mishra,  new Chief Information Commissioner approves the continuation of the case.

 It needs to be recapped that the erstwhile Chief Orissa Information Commissioner Sri D. N. Padhi, retired since November 2010, had lodged a defamation/ damage suit valued Rs.1 lakh in the Court of Civil Judge (Senior Division) Bhubaneswar against two RTI activists of the State Sri Pradip Pradhan and Chitta Behera (CS Suit No. 1723 of 2010-M and Misc Case No. 764 of 2010 both dated 4.10.2010). Pursuant to the said case, the Court had issued a temporary injunction to the above parties for restraining them from publishing any defamatory/derogatory remarks in any media against the Commission or is Chief Commissioner until the appearance or filing of the show cause before the Court. The said parties had duly appeared and submitted their respective show cause before the Court on 9.11.2010, the first date scheduled for the purpose. Since then the parties have also appeared before the Court on several dates, though no substantial progress has been achieved in hearing of the cases.

 Meanwhile the Opposite Party/Defendant No.1 Sri Pradip Pradhan filed a petition before the said Court dated 2nd December challenging the maintainability of the case filed by Orissa Information Commission. The salient grounds on which Sri Pradhan challenged the Orissa Information Commission were such as (a) the Chief Commissioner being a public servant has no locus standi to file the suit as per Section 91 of CPC 1908; (b) the Commission or its Chief being a creature of RTI Act 2005 has nowhere been authorized by the said Act to sue common citizens on the charges of defamation and has therefore indulged in an extra-judicial nuisance and wastage of valuable time of the Court; (c) the activists have been pointing out through emails the acts of illegality, corruption, inefficiency and moral turpitude of the Commissioners so as to ensure the rectification of a malfunctioning Commission, not to defame any person; (d) the former Chief Commissioner instead of amending himself and the Commission took resort to vindictive action against the RTI activists to suppress their freedom of expression; (e) if the Commission is allowed to sue the citizens by spending money from the public exchequer, there shall be no end to this practice, and the public exchequer shall be emptied out in the process. On these grounds, the petition of the RTI activists therefore appealed for rejection of the defamation case lodged by the Commission.

 In response to the above petition by the RTI activists, an Objection has been submitted on behalf of the Commission to the Court on 19.02.2011. But the said Objection while squarely avoiding a point wise reply to the above grounds has shown some flimsy excuses as grounds for rejection of the petition. Among such grounds are, (a) since the suit has been admitted by the Order of the Court, no 'roving enquiry/ mini trial' is required to ascertain the truth of the allegations made against the Commission; (b) 'No citizen, more over the Defendant no.1 has any right/ authority' to pass defamatory remarks against the functioning of a statutory authority like Commission. The judgement of the Commission can only be challenged before the High ourt. The defendant no.1 has no authority 'to scrutinize / supervise the omission or commission of the administrative affairs of the Commission; (c) the defendants in the suit (RTI activists) being 'the private individuals' have 'committed the wrong in their individual capacities' against a public authority and their petition for rejection of the plaint is therefore liable to be rejected.

 The next date of hearing shall be notified by the Court in due course.  

It needs to be mentioned here that the former Chief Information Commissioner Sri D.N.Padhi who had filed the case against RTI activists in his official capacity has already retired followed by the retirement of Sri Kasinath Sahu, then Secretary of the Commission who swore the affidavit on behalf of Sri Padhi, the Orissa Information Commission presently led by its Chief Sri T.K.Mishra has approved the continuation of the said case by spending the money from public exchequer. Thus the illegal act of his predecessor is being maintained and pursued by the present Chief of Orissa Information Commission.

Pradip Pradhan


Date- 20.2.2011


No comments:

Post a Comment