Breaking News Allahabad HC stays appointment of PIOs in private institutes...

Allahabad HC stays appointment of PIOs in private institutes including City Montessori School

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Lucknow Sept 8 (ILNS) The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on Monday, stayed the order regarding appointment of Public Information Officers in other institutions including City Montessori School (CMS).

The Division Bench of  Justice Rajan Roy and Justice Suresh Kumar Gupta passed this order while hearing a petition filed by City Montessori School through its Founder Jagdish Gandhi.

The Petitioner challenged the order passed by the State Information Commission in Appeal on the ground that the order is without jurisdiction and also that the petitioner herein does not fall within the definition of public authority and no such direction could be issued to the Chief Secretary, Government of U.P. for appointing the Public Information Officer in the petitioner’s institutions apart from other private institutions as has been ordered.

Sanjay Sharma, the complainant, after quoting Section 19 (8) (a) (ii) of the U.P. Right to Information Act, 2005 and rule 12 of the Right to Information Rules, 2015 and contended that the petitioner should first seek recall of the order and emphasized that the City Montessori School is a public authority under Section 2 (h) of the Act, 2005.

Counsel for the Commission relied upon Section 2 (h) of the U.P. Right to Information Act, 2015, Section 12 of the Right to Education Act, 2009 under which 25% of the students from the economically weaker sections are to be admitted by such school as the petitioners and as regards fee payable thereof, the State Government reimburses the same to justify the above order.

The Court said that, when we peruse the order of the State Information Commission, we find that it has not issued any direction to any public authority or for that matter even to the petitioner for providing any information to the opposite party, Sanjay Sharma who is the information seeker under the Act, 2005.

The Court observed that it is not possible to collect information from the District Education Officer in respect to hundred of schools in the districts under his jurisdiction, he has gone on to direct the Chief Secretary, Government of U.P. to appoint a PIO in each school under the jurisdiction of the State Information Commission, which provide free and compulsory education under the Act, 2009 within three months of its order. The order has been issued by the State Information Commission in exercise of its alleged power under Section 19 (8) (a) (ii) and 25 (5) of the Act, 2005.

The Court observed, “we have perused the powers and function of the Public Information Officer under Section 18 and we find that the order/direction contained in the order do not relate to Section 18. In fact, apparently as stated by the Commission itself, the same has been passed exercising the power under Section 19 (8) (a) (ii) of the Act, 2005, which are appellate powers, which the commission was not exercising in the instant case as what was before the commission was a complaint which had to be dealt with as per Section 18 and not Section 19.

The Court noted that even for appointment of a PIO, the relevant provisions is contained as Section 5, which says that every public authority shall designate as many officers as Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer as the case may be in all administrative units of office under it as duly necessary to provide information to person requesting for the information under this Act.

The Court does not find any provision in the Act that Chief Secretary, Government of U.P. could appoint such Public Information Officers. In any case, the order is bad as it was exercising jurisdiction vested in the Commission under Section 18 and it was not exercising appellate powers, therefore, Section 19 does not come into play. Section 25 (5) of the Act, 2005 also does not sustain the order prima facie.

“Accordingly, we stay the operation of the order so far it relates to appointment of Public Information Officer regarding petitioner’s institution is concerned, but leave it open for the Commission to proceed with the complaint in terms of Section 18 of the Act, 2005 irrespective of the order meaning thereby for this limited purpose, the complaint shall still be alive before the State Information Commission. Pleadings will be exchanged between the parties in six weeks, the court said.

This order will not absolve the petitioner of its obligation, if any, under the Act, 2009 nor does it absolve it from providing requisite information in this regard to any officer of the State/Public Authority which it is otherwise obliged to provide the same, in law”, the Court ordered./ILNS/AP/SNG

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